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Next Up: Georgia Tech

Look for a defensive struggle in Atlanta

Duke v Miami
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 04: Vernon Carey Jr. #1 of the Duke Blue Devils dunks against the Miami Hurricanes during the second half at the Watsco Center on January 04, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

A few days ago, anyone would have looked at Duke and Georgia Tech and thought well obviously Duke is going to kill them.

Now? Not so much.

First, whatever you want to say about UNC’s play, the Yellow Jackets came to play. They looked like absolute world beaters. And in principle we think that’s great. We want every ACC team to be good and every gym to be full.

We’d just prefer they not be so good Wednesday night.

Duke of course has a key injury as Wendell Moore will stay home Tuesday, having had hand surgery on Monday.

So things have changed a bit for both teams.

Georgia Tech has developed a pretty solid rotation. Michael DeVoe (6-5) and Jose Alvarado (6-0) are a solid backcourt. DeVoe didn’t play well in Chapel Hill but he’s averaging 16.9 ppg and has been a real asset for Josh Pastner’s team on offense. And we’ve always respected Alvarado, understanding from the day he signed that he was going to be the most deadly thing in college basketball: a highly savvy four-year point guard. A junior now, we saw in Chapel Hill what he could do with an inspired team. He was brilliant.

We also knew that Raleigh’s Moses Wright (6-9) would take awhile to develop but look at him now: the junior forward is averaging 13.4 ppg and 7.9 rpg and like DeVoe, isn't all that far from being an All-ACC caliber player. He works around the basket as hard as any guy in the conference. We really admire how he’s improved.

James Banks (6-10) is at center and he’s the ACC’s leading shotblocker with just under three per game. He’s a load inside and between him and Alvarado, Tech has serious pressure on the ball and at the basket.

He’s only been eligible for a few games, but Jordan Usher has made a big difference for Tech. He’s athletic, and while neither Banks nor Wright is very effective away from the basket, Usher fills that need. He has the potential to really upgrade that team.

Bubba Parham, Khalid Moore, Asanti Price and Evan Cole round out the rotation.

Parham has played a lot but at 5-10 and 160, maybe, he’s got some challenges to deal with in the ACC (he’s a junior transfer from VMI). He was seen as a major offensive addition but so far he hasn’t offered that much.

Khalid Moore is a 6-7 sophomore, Asanti Price is a 6-5 freshman and Evan Cole, who was one of Kevin Keatts’ last recruits at Wilmington before he moved to NC State, is now a strapping 6-10 junior.

Josh Pastner’s forte as a coach, or at least as an ACC coach so far, is defense. His teams always play hard on defense. He hasn't had as much on the offensive end so far.

Given Duke’s potent defense so far, you can expect both teams to fight hard on that end.

Banks will be one of the toughest defenders that Duke’s star freshman Vernon Carey has faced so far.

Alvarado and Jones is going to be fun to watch. Cassius Stanley will get the first crack at DeVoe and they are similar sizes. Moore would spend some time on him if he were playing but otherwise it’ll be a combination of Jordan Goldwire, Jack White and Alex O’ Connell.

In general we’d look for a defensive game but Duke has more offense than Tech most nights and does very well in transition.

And if you look at the UNC game again, you’ll see that while Tech was scintillating in the first half, they were prone to turnovers in the second, and to a team that its own coach said didn't have its heart in the game. If UNC had been more engaged, turnovers could have flipped that game.

Which is to say that there’s a vast distance right now between Duke and UNC. You can’t measure them against each other as we so often do because the Heels, currently, are mediocre and didn’t fight back when Georgia Tech was kicking them in the teeth (Williams memorably muttered that “if someone is trying to kill me I’m going to to at least fight back”).

We’re not saying that Georgia Tech can’t beat Duke. Of course they can. That’s a very solid team.

We’re just saying that unlike UNC, Duke is going to fight. If Georgia Tech wins Wednesday night, you can bet they’ve earned it.

  • Time: 9:00
  • Venue: McCamish Pavilion
  • Video: ACCN