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Next Up - Virginia Tech

A Big Monday clash

Florida State v Duke
 DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 31: Jeremy Roach #3 of the Duke Blue Devils drives against Jalen Warley #1 of the Florida State Seminoles during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 31, 2022 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 86-67.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Date 1/23 || Time 7:00 || Venue Cassell Coliseum || Video ESPN

Duke follows up the big win over Miami with a trip to Blacksburg to take on Mike Young’s Virginia Tech Hokies. They’ve lost seven straight games but don’t let that fool you. This is a very dangerous team.

Virginia Tech lost senior Hunter Cattoor at the beginning of the losing streak but Young has said that their problems are deeper than that.

The team returns Cattoor, Justyn Mutts, Darius Maddox and Sean Pedulla from last year’s team.

Not back: Storm Murphy, Keve Aleve and Naheim Alleyne.

For our purposes, Alleyne doesn’t count because he was wildly inconsistent. Murphy and Aluma were anything but.

Aluma was a quality big guy who averaged 15.8 ppg, 6.5 boards and 1.9 assists. He could shoot from just about anywhere and averaged 53.8 percent overall and 33.3 on threes, which is basically break-even. And he gave Duke fits.

Despite being just 6-0, Murphy was a powerful point guard who could run his team and take over a game. He was really impressive.

He was replaced by Sean Pedulla, who has certainly held his own.


He’s been harder to replace.

His nominal replacement is Grant Basile, who transferred in from Wright State.

Basile has done well, but in a perfect world, he’d play forward and someone else, let’s say Aleve, would handle the post.

We haven’t watched every Hokies game, but Basile has had some great games. He opened with 30 points in the season opener against Delaware State. He had 23 against Dayton and 26 against Syracuse.

But you can notice a pattern. With the exception of Syracuse, when he goes up against quality big men, he doesn’t do quite as well. So when the Hokies faced UNC and Armando Bacot, he had 12 points and four rebounds. When they faced Clemson, he had 17 points the first time and 13 the second.

And when Virginia Tech faces really good defensive teams, his stats suffer too. So Wake Forest held him to nine, NC State held him to four and Virginia held him to 12.

Of course, it’s not just Basile going one on five. If his teammates can’t get him the ball, he obviously can’t do much. But still, he can’t do the things Aleve could.

Pedulla has stepped in at point and done a generally solid job. Aside from leading Va. Tech in scoring at 15.9, he’s averaging 4.2 apg and, impressively for a 6-1 guard, nearly 4 rpg.

Mutts is a really valuable guy who is kind of a Swiss Army knife. He can do lots of things. But generally speaking, he’s the guy you’d like to put around the guys who can do the heavy lifting. Then he could do whatever needs to be done. He’s really valuable, but he’s not the guy you want to have to carry your team.

Cattoor is a really smart player and really efficient. He doesn't spend a lot of time looking around; he either makes a move or gets rid of the ball and keeps moving. And he can shoot. When you look how close most of the losses have been lately, you can imagine he would have made a big difference (he’s only been back for two games).

In spots last season, Darius Maddox was dazzling. We thought he’d be ready for a big improvement. He’s getting nearly twice the minutes but his measurable outcome has improved marginally.

Freshman Michael Collins is firmly in the rotation but he’s not having a huge statistical impact (of course you can’t measure everything statistically).

Lynn Kidd, a 6-10 a 6-10 junior, has had his moments but clearly he’s not the answer. if he were, he’d be getting more minutes (he’s pulling 13.7 currently).

And finally, freshman Rodney Rice was supposed to be a factor, but he’s missed all but one game and is injured again. He’s a good candidate for a redshirt.

There’s more to what Young said about the issues his team faces. Widely acknowledged as a masterful offensive coach, Young’s team this year is eighth overall in the ACC in scoring offense (Duke is ninth, incidentally). Virginia Tech is also seventh in free throw percentage (Duke is second). And given Young’s three-point happy offense, you'd expect the Hokies to shoot it well, but they’re ninth. Duke is 12th, but second in three point defense.

There’s a big gap in rebounding - Duke gets 13.84 offensive boards per game, which is first in the conference and these teams are basically a wash in defensive rebounding with 26.63 for the Hokies and 26.16 for the Blue Devils.

Duke’s inside strength is going to be a major challenge for Virginia Tech and the guard play, as we have seen, has come along nicely in Roach’s absence. Tyrese Proctor has grown up a lot and while Dariq Whitehead has shown some brilliant flashes, he hasn’t yet put together a dominant game. But he demands attention which, at a minimum, makes life easier for other guys. And this game is also an opportunity for Ryan Young and Dereck Lively, since Virginia Tech’s inside defense is a little suspect.

So a lot of things in this game could line up well for the Blue Devils. Still, it’s no sure thing.


Well, several reasons.

First, despite their struggles, Virginia Tech has some solid talent and experience. And at this point, no one doubts that Mike Young is a quality coach. And Cassell Coliseum, especially for big games, is as good a home court advantage as any place in the ACC.

And as we have seen this season, youth can work against Duke. The Blue Devils could have won at Clemson if they had closed the game out well and, though they still won, didn't get a basket in the last five minutes against Miami.

Duke finally got Jeremy Roach back for Miami, and that was huge. The Blue Devils didn’t score a basket in the last five, but Roach stripped Nijel Pack with :13 left which was the kind of clutch play you like to see from your leader.

Playing in a loud, raucous place like Cassell - might as well call it Littlejohn North, really - is not easy for experienced teams. For a young group like Duke’s winning there would be a major breakthrough.