Preview | VT (8-3) @ #6 duke (10-2) | Sun., 7:45 PM | FSN Sunday Night Hoops


Take the biggest nerd from your high school, then the most Tri-Lambda-like person from 6,399 other schools, and you have the duke undergraduate population.*  All they have from a social aspect is basketball.  Thank goodness they have that.

Sunday night the ACC’s first place blue devils take on the second place Virginia Tech Hokies.  It is the Alpha Betas against the Tri-Lambs!  Let’s just hope the cool kids win this time.

*NOTE: Fox still hasn’t run with my idea of putting a florida state fraternity at duke for a semester and letting them run amuck.


Position VT duke
Guard 23 Delaney 6’3″ 30 Scheyer 6’5″
Guard 5 Hudson 6’5″ 2 Smith 6’2″
Forward 1 Bell 6’6″ 12 Singler 6’8″
Forward 0 Allen 6’7″ 42 Thomas 6’8″
Center 14 Davila 6’8″ 55 Zoubek 7’1″

Normally you could say the Hokies match-up well with the blue devils from a size standpoint, at least compared to a team like wake forest or fsu who always has a bunch of trees inside.  But this year the devils feature three players that stand 6’10” or taller and play 15 minutes or more (Zoubek and the Plumlee brothers).  That isn’t counting 6’8″ power forward Lance (tell me that isn’t a Revenge of the Nerds name) Thomas or 6’8″ wing player Kyle Singler.  So Tech will have their work cut out for them, yet again, on the glass.  Luckily, duke’s bigs aren’t the scoring threats that fsu’s, georgia tech’s, or wake’s are.  The Plumlees and Zoubek (think Frankenstein) average just 16.5 ppg, but do grab more than 6 offensive rebounds per game.  duke as a team is #1 in the conference in Offensive Rebounds per game at 14.9 per game and Offensive Rebounding Percentage at 41%

The strength of duke is their guards and wings.  Singler was the ACC Preseason of the Year, but he’s just third on the team in scoring.  Scheyer, Smith, and Singler rank #2, 4, and 8 in the conference in scoring average.  They combine for over 53 ppg (remind you of VT’s team last year?).  Scheyer moved to the point this year from shooting guard and has been fantastic.  Hudson will likely draw him due to his 6’5″ frame.  Smith is the speedster, just a step slower than Ty Lawson was.  But Smith has also been great from three-point range this year, hitting 42% of his 93 threes.  And Singler, who struggled from the outside earlier in the year, has the complete package.  He’s hit 25 threes in  his last 7 games, including 8/10 against georgia tech.  Kyle can shoot over you, or drive and finish near the rim.  He also has a strong mid-range game.

The Triple S Crew are all great three-point shooters.  Singler, Smith, and Scheyer all shoot over 39% on threes and they have made 165 threes on the year.  duke leads the league in three-pointers made AND percentage.

It really is pick your poison with duke.  If you go out and guard them on the perimeter, they will penetrate and either kick it out to sliding perimeter player for three as you leave him to help, or find the open man inside for a layup.  If you back off them outside, they will kill you from long distance, or even if they miss, they grab the long rebounds.  duke does a great job of spacing on the outside either running their motion offense or 1-4 (4 perimeter) set.  duke is not great at breaking teams down off the dribble but can use screening to open up lanes.  The blue devils are also great in transition despite not having what you would consider great athletes.  Smith is extremely quick and a great finisher near the hoop.  Maybe not as quick or as good of a finisher as Ish Smith of wake, but then again Ish cannot shoot from beyond 10 feet while Nolan Smith can.

Off the bench the blue devils have the Plumlees.  Miles is a year older but Mason, a freshman, is going to be the better of the two.   Mason is a big time dunker already and is one of the few duke players (along with Smith) you would call a great athlete.  Mason wouldn’t beat Gerald Henderson in a dunk contest, but he can bring it.  And both are high energy guys much like Virginia Tech’s Jackson brothers in the mid-90s.  Both are great offensive rebounders but neither can, or will, stroke it from the outside.

Summary, duke is #2 in ACC play in Scoring Offense and #1 in Scoring Defense.  I.e. they are pretty good.


  • Start Fast: Tech has not left the gates well at duke in past years.  They were down 11-0 before the TV feed even made it to Cameron Indoor last year at duke, and VT lost 69-44.  Then at Tech they fell behind 20-5.  They did tie that game up in the second half but ultimately fell.  Tech’s been behind by at least 10 points in the first half in 4 of the last 5 meetings (every meeting except the win at duke in 2007).  And let’s not even talk about that 35 point drubbing back in 2005.  The Hokies cannot afford to fall behind early and have to play from behind.
  • Win the Turnover Margin: VT is #1 in Turnover Margin in ACC action.  duke is #2.  But if Tech is going to win on the road, they have to find a way to win this battle despite how experienced and talented the duke backcourt is.  At the very least, hope that the Hokie turnovers are deadball ones (limiting transition opportunities) while duke’s are live ball turnovers to get the VT transition game going.
  • Don’t Expect the Whistle Song: Tech is tied with wake for the most free throw attempts in conference games.  Don’t expect that to happen in Cameron Indoor.  The Hokies need to find ways to score without getting to the line, and avoid committing dumb fouls that get duke to the line early in halves.  VT has been playing extremely aggressive defense lately to get their transition game jump-started, but it also has led to a lot of foul calls.  In this game, it will definitely lead to a lot of foul calls.  Jeff Allen must be careful.  FYI: duke is #3 in FT% in ACC play behind VT.
  • Block Party and Pajama-Jammy Jam: The Raines block leading to a Hudson dunk against wake really got the Hokies cooking on Tuesday.  In fact, VT has been doing a great job blocking shots lately.  They had a negative Block Margin in 7 of their first 8 ACC games, but have a 26-12 advantage in blocks in the last three games.  They had just 21 blocks in their first 8 games, with 26 in the last 3.  Then some dunks are always nice.
  • 5 Guys, 1 Rebound: All 5 Hokies must help out on the glass.  Since duke shoots so many threes, that means long rebounds when they do actually miss.  Their bigs will battle on the glass on any shot.  Every Hokie must help out, but once secured, find ways to push the ball up the floor.
  • Break the Streaks: duke has won 7 in a row (compared to VT’s 5).  duke has won 3 in a row in the series.  VT is 0-2 in ACC play on Sundays.  But this team has been all about breaking past history, and Sunday night is a big chance to do that.

Bonus Shot: The biggest key for the Hokies is finding ways to score.  duke plays great, suffocating defense.  They’ll use some full court press but even in the half court they really come out and defend you beyond the three-point line, knowing even if you beat them off the dribble one of their help defenders can block the shot or draw a charge (like the 4 or 5 called on VT last year in Blacksburg).  duke makes it tough to get into your half court sets and force you to make your first pass well beyond the three-point line where you aren’t setting up a shot.  So Tech must find ways to get out in transition.  The problem with that is duke’s guards don’t have to go after offensive rebounds since their low post players are so good at offensive rebounding, the guards can drop back.  Live ball turnovers will be huge for the Hokies as will just quick inbounds after makes and pushing the ball, or getting the outlet pass up the floor on misses and forcing the issue.  I’d rather Tech attack in transition than have to play in the half court all game.

Most of all, Tech must hit shots.  georgetown shot over 70% (!) in their win over duke a month ago and nc state state shot 58%.  Both shot over 40% on threes.  georgia tech beat duke with their inside game, namely Lawal.  The common thread is all three teams had a huge game from a post player (Lawal, Tracy Smith, and Monroe).  Jeff Allen must stay out of foul trouble and have a big game, and everyone else needs to hit open looks.  I.e. VT needs to play a great offensive game like they did in the second half Tuesday.


Pts Reb Ast
Delaney 20.2 3.9 4.1
Hudson 14 3.5 2.1
Allen 11.4 7.2 1.3
Thompson 7 4.6 0.5
Bell 5.9 5.9 1.8
Davila 5.8 4.6 0.4
Pts Reb Ast
Scheyer 19.1 3.4 5.4
Smith 17.7 2.8 3.1
Singler 16.6 7.2 2.5
Mi. Plumlee 6 5.5 0.4
Dawkins 5.8 1.5 0.5
Thomas 5.6 4.8 0.9


  • All-time: duke 35-7
  • Last year: VT lost 69-44 at duke, scoring just 13 second half points, and 72-65 in Blacksburg.
  • In ACC Play: duke 6-2
  • At duke: 16-1 (3-1 in ACC action)

“The Highlight” from VT’s last win at duke three years ago (think Lipton teabag):

This post was written by:

- who has written 1284 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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