Preview | VT (9-4) @ #5 duke (11-1) | Sun., 7:30

Update: According to Hokiesports.com, Victor Davila is listed as a starter and Hank Thorns is a game time decision for duke.  Thorns has missed the last three games, forcing Delaney to play all 120 minutes of action.  Davila hurt his ankle in VT’s last game.

According to the Roanoke Times, Nolan Smith is expected to play for duke despite suffering a knee injury on Wednesday.

Spread: duke by 15 1/2

THE SETUP

Alright, ladies, the preseason… done!  Football season… done! (welcome back to those of you that can’t handle two sports at once.)  Neidermeyer… dead!  Its time for ACC basketball!  And for the fifth time in five seasons in the ACC, the Hokies open conference play against a North Carolina school: #6 unc in 2004 (51-85), @ #1 duke in 2005 (75-77; the infamous half court shot at the buzzer game), wake in 2006 (63-60), and @ wake in 2007 (75-77).  In this tilt, Tech has to travel to the World’s Largest Nerd Convention, otherwise known as Cameron Indoor Stadium*.

The Hokies, who have yet to get a marque win this season, have a big opportunity on Sunday night on national television.  Lack of quality wins kept Tech out of the Big Dance last season, so at some point VT has to make the most of an opportunity.  It won’t be easy in this one, though, as the blue devils have looked very strong so far this season.  The Hokies must find a way to slow down the explosive duke offense that can attack from multiple angles.  The blue devils have six players averaging 7.5 ppg or more, and that doesn’t include senior point guard Greg Paulus.

The blue devils have played just three games since December 6th, and just one game since December 20th.  In case you are hoping duke is rusty in this game, you can probably forget it.  In those three games, all the devils have done is woodsheded unc-asheville by 43, #7 xavier by 18 (and it wasn’t that close – duke led by 31 at the half), and loyola (md) by 41 on New Year’s Eve.  duke also beat #10 purdue by 16 in the ACC/(dominates the) Big(11)Ten Challenge.  The Hokies are going to have to step up their play and earn it in this one.

THE DATA

  • The Series: duke 33-7
  • Since VT joined the ACC: 2-4
  • VT at duke: 1-15 (the lone win was in Tech’s last trip to duke, a 69-67 win in OT in 2007)

STARTING LINEUPS

Virginia Tech

  1. #23 Malcolm Delaney – 6′3″
  2. #5 Dorenzo Hudson – 6′5″
  3. #40 A.D. Vassallo – 6′6″
  4. #0 Jeff Allen – 6′7″
  5. #14 Victor Davila – 6′8″ (depends on the severity of his ankle injury… otherwise expect Cheick Diakite to start to match up with Brian Zoubek)

duke

  1. #2 Nolan Smith – 6’2″ (injured his left knee on Wednesday) or #3 Greg Paulus – 6’1″
  2. #30 Jon “Crazyface” Scheyer – 6’5″
  3. #15 Gerald Henderson – 6’4″
  4. #12 Kyle Singler – 6’8″
  5. #55 Brian Zoubek – 7’1″

BREAKING DOWN THE OPPONENT

duke is deep.  No shocker there.  When basically every player you have is a McDonald’s All-American, you are the filet mignon of college basketball (not a crappy Filet-O-Fish).  But this year duke is seriously deep.  They may play as many as 12 guys in this game and have 11 players averaging 7.7 mpg or more. 

The blue devils are balanced, too.  They average a whopping 84 ppg and give up just 61.5 ppg.  As I mentioned above, six players score 7.5 ppg or more and four guys average 11.5 ppg or more.  They are led by reigning ACC Freshman of the Year, Kyle Singler.  He leads duke in ppg (16.3), rpg (7.8), and apg (3.5).  He leads all those categories by a long shot… for the #5 team in the country.  In other words, he’s pretty good.  Kyle is a sure-fire All-ACC First Teamer this year.  And despite being 6’8″, he is a very good ballhandler.  If he was a Hokie, he’d have Tech’s second best handle (not counting Thorns since he is injured). 

One area of concern for duke has to be the status of sophomore Nolan Smith.  Smith unseated senior Greg Paulus as the starting point guard this season and had been tied as their third leading scorer.  But he injured his left knee against loyola on Wednesday, and after a lengthy time down on the court, limped to the locker room and did not return.  If he’s out, duke will be in a similar situation as VT has been with Thorns hurt, down to one true point guard – Paulus.  Paulus has been a starter for three years, so that isn’t much of a drop-off, but Smith is a much better scorer and better in transition.  Paulus is a better passer, though he is prone to make dumb mistakes.

KEYS TO THE GAME

  • Keep Delaney on the Floor: With Hank Thorns questionable, Malcolm Delaney is Tech’s only quality ballhandler.  You can bet the farm coach k will tell his guys to go at Delaney and try to draw fouls on him.  The 1-3-1 zone VT has played lately will help protect Malcolm, but he still picked up four fouls in the Hokies’ last game.  The good news is Nolan Smith is duke’s best penetrator at guard, and he may be slowed by a knee injury suffered earlier in the week. 
  • Slow the devils: duke plays a very uptempo offense that can tire opponents.  Since VT is fairly deep, that isn’t as big a factor except for at the point.  Delaney must play all 40 minutes in this game if Thorns cannot go for Virginia Tech to have a chance, so the Hokies must slow the duke transition game.  That means not turning the ball over and getting back on defense.  Again, as mentioned above, Smith possibly being out, or gimpy, would help.  He is duke’s ferrari, while Paulus is more of a Nissan.
  • Rotate: duke may be the best team in the country at penetrating and kicking the ball out for open threes.  If Tech gets beaten off the dribble, and they have been quite often this season, others will have to help to stop the driver (often another player guarding a perimeter player).  That means the other remaining players have to identify the open perimeter players and rotate out to get a hand in their face.  The down side of this is often you lose who you were supposed to check on the defensive glass…
  • Party of Five on the Glass: All five players on the floor for the Hokies must help on the defensive glass.  duke spreads you out and likes to shoot from deep.  That means long rebounds and often switching defenders.  The Hokies must do a good job of finding someone to block out on shots and limiting the blue devils to one attempt.  That’s the only way Tech can keep this game in the 70s or lower, where the score must be for VT to have a chance to win.
  • Swallow the Whistles: Virginia Tech was called for 33 fouls in the 2005 game at duke.  I haven’t seen so many whistles since the caddies hit the pool in Caddyshack.  Greenberg eventually got tossed and I nearly put a shoe through my TV.  coach whiner, I mean k, always seems to get the calls at home.  And when you have 12 bodies to play, compared to 8-9 for VT, foul trouble is a much bigger factor to the Hokies.  Hopefully this game won’t be called tight… I doubt it.  Jeff Allen and Delaney really need to play smart on the defensive end and hope they don’t get called for any cheap offensive fouls.
  • Pump and Go: duke’s trademark is a very aggressive half court defense.  They run at you very hard, sometimes out of control.  Tech’s perimeter players, if they use a pump fake, can get duke players coming out them to fly by and then penetrate the lane.  The Hokies can then hit pull up jumpers, pass to a sliding perimeter player on the opposite wing for a three, or go at the hoop and hopefully draw a foul.  Scheyer is duke’s weakest defender.  If Jon and A.D. are matched up, expect big numbers for both, though I expect Gerald Henderson, duke’s best athlete, will match up with Vassallo.
  • Nerds!: duke is on winter break, so Tech might get a break in that the crowd may be less irritating than is typical.  Maybe.

*Cameron Indoor Stadium actually holds fewer people than Cassell Coliseum (9314 compared to 9847)

This post was written by:

- who has written 1221 posts on Tech Hoops.

Niemo is a member of the VT Class of '98. While not a professional journalist by any stretch, Niemo analyzes and breaks down every minute of Hokie hoop action. He also researches topics of interest such as Hokie recruits, program revenue, statistical data on the team, previews VT opponents, and discusses his favorite bourbons/Scotches. In addition to his passion for Hokie hoops, Niemo has attended 126 straight VT football home games (every game since '94), eclipsing the 100 mark in September of '09 and recently attended his 20th consecutive VT/uva game. During the final home basketball game of his senior year, he was brought onto the court and was awarded 2 passes to the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament in Philly during a timeout for being a "Super Fan" during his time at VT. The Hokie Bird made the award on behalf of Athletic Director Jim Weaver. Niemo was known to be in the front row of every home game with his familiar red afro hairdo.

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  • vatechhokies50

    They are deep, but they are not as physical as us… Coach K gets all of the calls (love the Caddyshack reference).

    I feel like we can get some backdoor baskets on them… they are over aggressive on defense sometimes like our Hokie football team over pursues.

    Hopefully, I can get back from Fargo, ND in time for the game on Sunday… I say this because I’ve seen four feet of snow here in the two weeks I’ve been here and I think we are getting a foot tomorrow… the flight is scheduled to fly out tomorrow.

    GO HOKIES!! BEAT DUKE!!

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