Virginia Tech is starting to heat up in conference play, winning their third consecutive ACC game in a Saturday night stomping of Georgia Tech 91-67. This came off the heels of a six-point win over NC State on the road and a dive-point home victory over Boston College.
Now, the Hokies will face one of the stiffest tests of their seqson. Monday evening in Blacksburg will be the place to be, as Virginia Tech hosts the #12 Duke Blue Devils in a primetime Big Monday showdown at 7 PM on ESPN
Duke is coming off a controversial one-point win over Clemson in Cameron Indoor, and the Blue Devils are winners of 10 of their past 11 games. Duke was upset by Pittsburgh, a team Tech has yet to play, but other than that anomaly, the Blue Devils are arguably the most talented team in the conference. Here are the keys to the game for Virginia Tech against Duke.
1. Hokies Must Bring the Physicality to the Blue Devils
Duke is known for their size and physicality, which Tech is familiar with. Kyle Filipowski and Mark Mitchell were starters on last year's Blue Devils' squad and still force the issue against Duke’s opponents in every game they play. With swingman Ryan Young coming off the bench too, Duke has plenty of size to scare away less than ready opposition.
Considering how Tech’s frontcourt played against Georgia Tech, a team that took down the Blue Devils in December, the Hokies will be ready for the physicality of Duke. Robbie Beran, Lynn Kidd and Mylyjael Poteat must bring a physical brand of basketball to the table vs Duke’s frontcourt and ultimately be ready to battle it out down low and on the boards.
2. Hunter Cattoor Must Dawn his Superman Cape Against Duke Once Again
Duke is certainly familiar with Hunter Cattoor to this point in the fifth-year senior’s career. Cattoor has posted double figures against the Devils four times in his career including the infamous 31-point outing to complete the Hokies' four games in four days run to ACC Championship glory back in the 2022 ACC Tournament.
Last year, In Tech’s narrow win over Duke at home, Cattoor posted 15 points on efficient shooting splits. The Orlando native has been ultra hot in his last few games, averaging 13 points per game on 51% shooting from behind the arc, good for best in the ACC among all players with the needed volume to qualify.
Cattoor’s shooting and two-way game will be needed if Tech is to upset Duke once again.
3. Tech’s Guards Must Outscore Duke’s Guards
Going off that point with Cattoor, as a unit Tech’s guards need to be stellar on offense. Sean Pedulla and MJ Collins must step up in the scoring department and defend Duke’s explosive guards as well. Tyrese Proctor, Jeremy Roach and Jared McCain are one of the top guard trios in the nation and will be a handful to keep in check.
Collins will need to score in double figures and take on the defensive matchup against either McCain or Proctor most likely. Tech will also need one of those crazy hot shooting nights from Sean Pedulla, who’s last barrage came against Clemson, the last time Tech played a ranked opponent. Additionally, Pedulla must take care of the basketball and not allow Duke to capitalize off offensive mistakes.
4. Limit Turnovers to Under 10 for the Second-Straight Game
Virginia Tech posted their first single digit turnover output against an ACC of the season vs the Yellow Jackets, only coughing the ball up seven times. Prior to Saturday’s game, the Hokies had committed 15 or more turnovers in their last three ACC games and four of the last five.
As mentioned above, Pedulla and Collins must not get too wild with the basketball and play within the flow of Tech’s offense. Not making the risky passes will be key to Tech not having a high turnover game. The Hokies are a team that live or die not only by the three ball depending on the night, but also whether they turn the ball over or not at a high rate.
Matchup Spotlight: Tyrese Proctor vs. Hunter Cattoor
Not only is it likely that Proctor and Cattoor will match up with each other on one or both ends, but both are the respective leaders of the team in certain ways. Proctor guides the ship for Duke on offense and the offense runs through his combination of scoring and playmaking. Cattoor while playing more without the ball is the leader and most efficient shooter and perimeter player for the Hokies.
Both have different games but similar overall impacts, and whichever of them is more impactful Monday night could make themselves the difference in this game.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 77, No. 12 Duke 70
I believe Virginia Tech is playing with house money and will once again cash out against No. 12 Duke in the confines of Cassell Coliseum. History is on the Hokies side in this matchup, as Tech has been victorious in five of the last six in Cassell since 2016. Virginia Tech must complete at least three of the keys above in order to get the win.
In the 2024 edition of the rivalry, expect the Hokies to come out with their hair on fire and ride big scoring performances from Hunter Cattoor and Sean Pedulla to lead to a second ranked victory of the season.