When the Hokies defeated the Blue Devils on February 26th, Virginia Tech was without the Hokies' all-time assist leader Justin Robinson and Duke was without future #1 overall pick Zion Williamson. Even still, the Blue Devils dominated the primary shooting statistics.
Duke shot 50% (25-50) from the field and 33% (7-21) from behind the arc in Cassell Coliseum in February. On the other hand, the Hokies shot 46% (23-50) from the field and 31% (8-26) from three.
However, Tech led in some of the other statistics. VT recorded more points in the paint (26) than Duke (24) and points off turnovers (13) than the Blue Devils (6). The rebounding was close, with Duke edging VT out 29-28, while both teams shot 79% from the charity stripe.
Even though both teams' star players are going to be back, I think this game will have a lot of similarities to the first matchup between these two teams.
Three Point Shooting
The Hokies did not shoot well against Duke in February, but they managed to get a bucket when they needed one. Graduate senior Ty Outlaw nailed a three with 1:28 left in the game to give Tech a 73-70 lead over the Blue Devils. This time, Tech is going to have to shoot much better to stay in this game.
In their last two games, Duke has shot greater than 40% from behind the arc, which is much improved from their 31% average. The Blue Devils rank 329th in the country in three-point percentage on offense. If they shoot to their average, the Hokies have a very good chance to pull an upset, especially if the Hokies can force them to take the threes that Duke likely will want to avoid.
However, the Hokies are also second in the country in percentage of three-point shots allowed per game, something that has at times given the Hokies some trouble.
However, against a team that struggles from behind the arc, this fares well for the Hokies if Duke shoots its average. The Blue Devils will play right into Tech's "cover two" style of defense that doubles everything in the post and forces kick-outs to shooters behind the arc.
For Tech offensively, they have to make their shots. Bottom line.
UCF stayed in the game in the second round against Duke because they shot 50% from three. The Hokies rank 9th in the country in offensive three-point percentage while Duke is 13th in three-point defense percentage.
If Tech can hit threes, they'll stay in this game. If they can't, it could be a long night for the Tech faithful.
The Hokies enter the game ranked 24th in the country in defensive turnover percentage. Duke is 99th in offensive turnover percentage. On the flip side, VT is 100th in offensive turnover percentage and Duke is 100th in defensive turnover percentage.
What do these statistics mean? Well, the Hokies turned the ball over just six times in February in Cassell against the Blue Devils while forcing 12 Duke turnovers. The difference showed on the scoreboard with a 13-6 points off turnover advantage in favor of the Hokies.
The Blue Devils are most lethal in transition, so if the Hokies turn the ball over and play into Duke's hands, Tech is going to give up a lot of points on the fast break, something they simply can't allow Duke to do.
In their first two NCAA Tournament games, Tech forced 18 turnovers against Saint Louis and 12 versus Liberty, all while turning the ball over 18 total times.
Virginia Tech will have to be the better team at protecting the basketball in order to not only keep the Blue Devils out of their best offense, but also get themselves in transition where they thrive.
Battle for the Boards
Against Virginia Tech in February, Duke grabbed 29 rebounds, one more than the Hokies. One of Tech's biggest changes this season from previous seasons is their improved rebounding.
The biggest challenge for the Hokies is to shut down Williamson on the boards. The freshman is averaging nine rebounds a game and presents a challenge that the Hokies have not faced yet. I'm not sure he can be stopped on the boards, but Tech needs to try to limit him while getting the guards to rebound.
Besides Williamson, RJ Barrett is averaging 7.7 rebounds per game and will need to be contained on the glass as well. Ahmed Hill, the graduate senior who will likely guard Barrett, will have to box out and limit the second chance points from Duke, and specifically Barrett.
When Hill can't get to the boards to box out Barrett, guys like Robinson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Isaiah Wilkins and Ty Outlaw will have to crash the boards.
In Cassell, every player that stepped on the floor for Tech grabbed at least one rebound. Virginia Tech is going to have the same mentality when crashing the boards this time against a Duke team that is ranked 14th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage.
Statistic wise, this game is pretty close. In my opinion, the Hokies have the advantage based on the stats; they are a better three-point shooting team and force more turnovers than the Blue Devils. Tech can keep it close on the boards, too.
The only thing Tech can't match or doesn't have is Zion Williamson, and I think Duke has the overall advantage because of that. Williamson brings a different edge to the game that Tech might have a tough time matching.
The Hokies match up well as a team at all of the other positions, including against NBA prospects Barrett and Cam Reddish.
It's going to come down to what Virginia Tech shooting team arrives in Washington. If the Hokies shoot well from behind the arc and can match Duke on the boards while forcing some turnovers, Tech should be able to go shot-for-shot with Duke.
If they fail to do those things, especially not shoot well, it might turn into whether or not Tech can slow down Zion Williamson's teammates. Zion is going to score his share, but it will likely come down to if the Hokies can limit the rest of the Blue Devils.
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
Stay up with The Tech Lunch Pail for the latest on Virginia Tech. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our email updates.