Here we go...
Tuesday night the third ranked Duke Blue Devils come into town to take on the twentieth ranked Hokies at the Cassell. The Blue Devils will be without star forward (and potential number one pick) Zion Williamson, but still have an insane amount of talent. Let’s see what to expect out of Duke and how the Hokies can pull off the upset.
RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish:
Barrett and Reddish were two of the top three prospects out of high school this past season (Zion Williamson was the other) and have been sensational. Barrett has scored 23 ppg this season and has the ability to take over any time. His partner Reddish scores 14 a game but can quickly get hot from the perimeter. If either of these two heat up, it could be a long night for Virginia Tech.
Offensive Shift for Duke:
Without Williamson, Barrett becomes even more dominant and will look to drive and shoot or kick it out for a three. On the wing, Duke has capable shooters, but on the year they’re shooting a sub-par 31% from three. As the percentage shows; Duke isn’t a good shooting team, but can get hot in a hurry and shoot anyone out of the game.
Other Notes for Duke:
One of the key players for Duke is point guard Tre Jones. He doesn’t shoot particularly well, but is the glue for this team because of his defense and his passing. When he’s on the floor, the Devils often run like well oiled machine. With that being said, without Zion on the floor, it heavily shakes up the offense and will likely mean more driving from RJ Barrett.
Keys for an Upset:
For Tech to knock off Duke several things have to happen. First and foremost: they have to shoot well. The Hokies have been streaky as of late and may just be due for a big night like they had against Syracuse. If Walker, Hill, and Outlaw can hit open shots, they can keep Tech in the game against the Blue Devils.
Besides shooting percentages, a couple of guys have to step up. To start it’s the obvious one: Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Since playing point guard, his shooting percentage and scoring have taken a slight hit, so him being aggressive would be huge. If he can get the ball on the wing consistently, he’ll be back in his comfort zone and hopefully scoring like he did as a shooting guard.
Besides Walker, Kerry Blackshear Jr. has to keep up his level of play. He’s been phenomenal down the stretch and has taken advantage of the extra touches in Robinson’s absence. A big game from him could go a long way.
The stars could align in the Cassell and the Hokies knock off the Blue Devils, but I just don’t see that happening. Duke’s defense will focus a ton of Walker to try and take him out of the game and their size/athleticism will be a challenge for Blackshear to say the least. If Tech can defend like they have been and have a good shooting night; this could become an interesting game. But I’ve got to go with my gut.... Duke wins 79-63.
Tune in at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN and....