The Virginia Tech Hokies have started 2016 in impressive fashion with a 2-0 start in ACC play. Virginia Tech opened the new year with a home win over N.C. State before pulling off a huge upset victory over #4 Virginia on Big Monday during the Kansas-Oklahoma classic in Lawrence that has the Hokies at 2-0.
The reward for the Hokies’ 2-0 ACC start is a trip to maybe the toughest venue to play at in all of college basketball, Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Virginia Tech has had a little extra rest this week, but faces arguably their toughest road game this season with the 14th-ranked Duke Blue Devils entering this game on a four-game win streak that includes a 16-point win at Wake Forest. If Virginia Tech pulls off the upset, they will be 3-0 in ACC play for the first time since the 2006-2007 season, which included a win at Duke.
Despite the 2-0 ACC start, Virginia Tech is huge underdogs with the line on ESPN having Duke as a 17-point favorite. Virginia Tech is once again big underdogs, but showed that they can pull off an upset after their impressive home victory over Virginia. The question is can they win on the road after not winning a single road game last year in ACC play?
Duke has one of the best offenses in the nation averaging 88.5 points per game led by ACC Player of the Year contender Grayson Allen. After coming off the bench last season, Allen has taken advantage of his opportunity this season averaging 20.8 points per game while shooting 86.9% from the free throw line and 41.5% from beyond the arc.
However, Duke has plenty of options on the outside with freshman and potential top 3 pick Brandon Ingram averaging 16.4 points per game. Duke also has Matt Jones, who shoots 42.4% from beyond the arc and averages 14 points per game, and Luke Kennard who has been playing better over the last few weeks.
Virginia Tech has played some great defense in their last few games, but they will be tested by a Duke team that will make you pay if you leave an open shooter beyond the arc as shown by their 38.4% three-point percentage. Virginia Tech may elect to wrinkle in some 2-3 zone early to see if that can help contain Duke’s shooting with the Blue Devils usually going with a smaller lineup especially with Amile Jefferson out indefinitely.
For the Hokies, part of the game-plan has to be to play inside out offensively against a Duke team that is weak in the frontcourt. Marshall Plumlee is averaging 6.7 points and 7.1 rebounds and is a solid player while Chase Jeter is a highly-touted recruit that is still trying to overcome a huge learning curve with the collegiate jump.
Plumlee and Jeter both have the size advantage compared to Zach LeDay and Kerry Blackshear, but Virginia Tech’s frontcourt duo may actually be better than Duke’s.
LeDay has started to stretch the floor a little for the Hokies as shown by his 3 three-pointers made against Virginia while Blackshear has started to improve as ACC play has gotten under way. LeDay is one of the hardest-working players in the ACC and will be ready to make life difficult for Duke while Blackshear has the potential to go off for a double-double depending on how well Duke is shooting.
The Hokies have done a poor job at making some of the easiest shots around the basket, but will have to do better against Duke’s explosive offense while also needing Justin Bibbs to get opportunities. Bibbs is one of America’s best three-point shooters and if Virginia Tech gets in a shootout, Bibbs may be one of Virginia Tech’s only hopes to keep the game close and give the Hokies a shot.
Virginia Tech will also need Seth Allen to be significantly more efficient in this matchup with the Blue Devils along with more consistency from Jalen Hudson to take some of Duke’s defensive attention off of Bibbs.
Virginia Tech may be huge underdogs, but expect Buzz Williams and the Hokies to make this interesting despite the environment. However, Duke is the better team and the environment will become too much for a Virginia Tech team that has had issues at the free-throw line.