What else can we say about UVA-Duke?

uva-dukeNo Tre Jones?

Mike Krzyzewski didn’t rule out Tre Jones for Saturday’s UVA-Duke game, but it wouldn’t seem likely that we’ll see the freshman point guard.

I like the move by Coach K to tease the possibility that Jones will play. Just adds to the list of things that UVA coach Tony Bennett and his staff need to prepare for.

No K.J. Maura?

The former UMBC point guard won’t be in Cameron after all, which, bummer.

He’d been invited by a student fan group as part of an effort to troll Kyle Guy, but UMBC coach Ryan Odom reportedly got in touch with Coach K to ask that he intervene to ask the group to reconsider the invite.

This is probably good for the Duke side of things. The UVA team has seen a fair number of UMBC jerseys, sweatshirts and T-shirts in gyms this season, but seeing Maura in one in the Duke student section might be more fuel than kryptonite.

Who controls the tempo?

Duke is the eighth-fastest team in terms of tempo this season, averaging 75.5 possessions per game, per KenPom.com.

Virginia: the slowest team, averaging 60.6 possessions per game.

This Duke team, in particular, is different from the last couple, but it still might be instructive to note how the past handful of games in this series have gone in terms of tempo.

Last season, Virginia’s 65-63 win in Cameron was a 65-possession game.

In 2017, Duke won 65-55 in Charlottesville in a 55-possession game. In 2016, Duke won in Cameron by a 63-62 final in a 59-possession game.

Back to 2015: that Duke team that went on to win a national title beat Virginia 69-63 in JPJ in a 59-possession game.

We’ll stop back in 2014. The teams split, Duke winning in the regular season in Cameron, UVA then winning the ACC Tournament final in Greensboro, both in 61-possession games.

Verdict: Virginia controls the tempo. Duke has still won four of the last six, even at Virginia’s tempo.

What’s at stake?

  • Until Monday, Duke had never lost a home game as an AP #1 team to a team other than North Carolina. A Virginia win on Saturday would be the second time in a week of something that had never happened before … happening.
  • We’re a ways off from March Madness, but you can see the fault lines forming at the top of the seed line. Virginia and Duke are jostling now for a #1 seed in the East Regional, where the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games are to be played in Washington, D.C. A lot has to happen between now and then, yes, but how these teams do in this home-and-home will be key in terms of resume material for the Big Dance.
  • A Duke win could put as many as six teams in a tie for first in the ACC with one conference loss. A Virginia win leaves the ‘Hoos atop the conference as the lone unbeaten, with its third road win, and a win in its toughest road game on the schedule.

Column by Chris Graham

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is now available at a special pre-sale discounted price of $20. The book is expected to ship by June 10, 2019, and will retail for $25.
Pre-order for $20: click here.


The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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