Virginia at Duke
Virginia (14-1, 1-0) at Duke (13-2, 1-0), 9:00 PM, ESPN/ESPN3
This has been a popular upset pick, but Virginia’s style is not as bad a matchup with Duke as some people think it is. Duke is fine with playing a slower tempo, and Virginia doesn’t have the type of players that can exploit Duke’s struggling defense (quick and athletic), particularly on the perimeter. But Virginia will be anxious to prove it is for real and Tony Bennett-coached teams rarely hurt themselves with silly mistakes, even in hostile environments. If Duke crushes Virginia, it’s a sign that the ACC is even worse than it appears.
Stat(s) to watch: Duke’s three-point percentage/Duke’s offensive rebounds. Virginia wants to force Duke to take jump shots, but Duke has no problem doing that. Virginia is holding opponents to 27% from three, 11th in the nation; Duke is shooting 41.7% from three, 7th nationally. Virginia also doesn’t allow opponents many extra looks – they’re eighth nationally in offensive rebounding percentage allowed. Virginia’s opponents have averaged 6.7 second-chance points on 7.9 offensive rebounds while Duke is averaging 12 second-chance points off 11 offensive rebounds. Duke has shot well from three all year but is shooting just 12-of-36 (33.3%) in its last two games. UVA has held its last four opponents to 19-of-71 from three (26.8%), including hot-shooting Miami. If Duke doesn’t shoot well from three AND can’t get its own misses, Virginia could win. Even then, the Cavaliers will have to shoot well themselves and hope they don’t get into foul trouble.
Most important players: Ryan Kelly, Duke and Sammy Zeglinski, Virginia. Mike Scott is Virginia’s best player, and it’s not close. Joe Harris has been great this year and had some nice games against Duke as well last year. But Zeglinski has been awful against Duke over his career, shooting 9-of-40 from the floor (22.5%) and 1-of-17 from three. UVA doesn’t stand a chance without good nights from its perimeter scorers, particularly Zeglinski.
Ryan Kelly has learned to draw fouls at a much higher rate this season (which Rush the Court wrote about here) and he’s Duke’s wild card in this game. Mike Scott is capable of guarding Kelly inside and outside, but Kelly has shown a propensity to draw fouls and that could limit Scott as well. Virginia just doesn’t have a lot of big bodies, particularly the types of big bodies that can handle Kelly defensively. Kelly saved Duke against Georgia Tech with a season-high 21 points (14-of-14 from the foul line).
Random stat: Of 12 ACC teams, two (Miami and Boston College) have never beaten Duke in Cameron. Of the non-expansion teams, Virginia has the second-longest drought: their last win there came January 14, 1995 (Clemson’s was January 4, 1995). Duke has won 43 straight at home since losing to Carolina in 2009. Four ACC teams won in Cameron in 2007 but since 2008, Duke has won by fewer than ten points in a home ACC game just three times. Duke’s average margin of victory in ACC road games since 2008 is just +4.5.
Prediction: Duke 68, Virginia 60
Last week: 6-3 (4-2)
Season: 67-23 (6-4)