Game Preview: #7 Virginia underdog at Duke on Saturday

uva-duke-headerVirginia led Duke by nine with 5:19 to go. Remember how that felt? GameDay was in town, a national TV audience was watching on primetime on a Saturday night.

Duke couldn’t buy a three. Then they couldn’t miss.

The Blue Devils, 1-for-11 from three in the first 35 minutes, made five of their last six from three-point range, and tipped in the other one, finishing the game with 22 points on their final eight possessions in a deflating 69-63 win.

Yeah, ugh.

Saturday’s game in Durham isn’t about avenging anything, of course. Not about that unconscious streak in the final five minutes in JPJ.

Or not, to cite another example, how Duke somehow jumped Virginia for a #1 national seed, avoiding the second-round matchup with Michigan State that ultimately doomed the Cavs.

Not to mention that game down in Durham in 2014 when Rasheed Sulaimon, now at Maryland, won with a corner three that bounced, bounced, bounced and then dropped, one of the odder bounces you’ll ever see, on a rim that officials had looked at during the halftime break with a level.

This group of ‘Hoos does have one memorable win against Duke, the 2014 ACC Tournament final, but that was two one-and-done groups ago, so you can only take so much away from that one.


Inside Duke

  • Bubble? The idea that the Blue Devils (18-6, 7-4 ACC) are in any kind of danger in terms of the NCAA Tournament is ludicrous. Duke is currently 19th in the RPI, and sure, that 2-5 record against the RPI Top 50 isn’t going to be good in terms of seeding, but … bubble? No way.
  • Grayson Allen is the linchpin. The sophomore scores 20.8 points per game (second in the ACC), shoots 49.4 percent from the floor and 43.9 percent from three-point range (third in the ACC). His offensive efficiency rating (134.8) is second-best in the conference. He gets Malcolm Brogdon in his shirt for the afternoon for his trouble on Saturday.
  • Brandon Ingram is a tough matchup for anybody, and will be for Virginia. Ingram, 6’9”, 190, shoots 47.6 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from three. He’s basically the four in a four-guard lineup. Isaiah Wilkins will have his hands full, to say the least, and if he gets in foul trouble, you may see coach Tony Bennett go four-guard to counter, with one or two from among Evan Nolte, Devon Hall, Marial Shayok or Darius Thompson trying to check him. Good luck with that.
  • Luke Kennard can either light you up (26 in a win last week over N.C. State, 30 in a loss at home on Jan. 16 to Notre Dame) or do literally nothing (0 in 28 minutes in a home loss to Syracuse on Jan. 18).
  • Duke basically goes with a six-man rotation, with freshman Chase Jeter getting a handful of minutes as the second guy off the bench. With the lack of depth and relative lack of experience, coach Mike Krzyzewski has mixed in some zone looks with his man-to-man, partly to steal some minutes and partly because Duke has been mediocre on defense (1.010 points per possession, 121st nationally, according to
  • Defense: Duke opponents score 71.3 points per game (10th in the ACC), shoot 43.6 percent from the field (11th in the ACC) and 35.0 percent from three-point range (10th in the ACC). Duke is also 14th in defensive rebound percentage (67.1 percent), though how much an issue that is against Virginia, which doesn’t hit the offensive boards as part of its effort to prevent breakouts, is a good question.
  • Offense: Duke is second nationally scoring 1.226 points per possession, and leads the ACC scoring 84.3 points per game. The Blue Devils shoot 47.7 percent from the field (sixth in the ACC) and 39.3 percent from three (second in the ACC).
  • Tempo: 69.3 possessions per game, 166th nationally.


Inside Virginia

  • Virginia (20-4, 9-3 ACC) did beat one pretty good, four-guard, tempo team, #1 Villanova, in a high-scoring game back in December, 86-75. You almost want to think that Bennett scheduled that game to get ready for this one. Funny thing about that one: Villanova had 62 possessions that night. Not a tempo game at all there, that one.
  • Malcolm Brogdon finally came back down to earth in Tuesday’s win over Virginia Tech, scoring a quiet 12 on 4-of-12 shooting from the field. For the season, Brogs averages 17.7 points per game, shoots 45.7 percent from the field, 40.2 percent from three and 87.3 percent from the line, and, as mentioned above, he will get the defensive assignment against Grayson Allen.
  • Anthony Gill had a nice bounceback game Tuesday, scoring a team-high 16 after back-to-back pedestrian efforts in wins over Boston College and Pitt. Gill is scoring 14.3 points a game on 58.4 percent shooting from the field and pulling down a team-best 5.9 rebounds per game.
  • London Perrantes leads the ACC in three-point shooting (53.4 percent) and is scoring 11.1 points per game and dishing out a team-best 4.3 assists per game.
  • Defense: Virginia has held its last four opponents to 50 points or fewer, and now leads the ACC in team defense, allowing 59.6 points per game. has UVA rated 10th nationally in points per possession (.927). Opponents shoot 41.5 percent from the field, third-best in the ACC, and 34.6 percent from three, ninth in the ACC. The Cavs lead the conference in defensive-rebound percentage (75.3 percent).
  • Offense: Virginia is 11th nationally in offensive efficiency (1.176 points per possession), leading the ACC in field-goal percentage (49.5 percent) and three-point shooting (40.5 percent).
  • Tempo: 61.9 possessions per game, the fewest in the country.

– Preview by Chris Graham

augusta free press

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