Welcome to another weekday edition of the Primetime Previewer; and while tonight’s and tomorrow night’s slates are lacking in many marquee matchups, we do have a big one on deck tonight in the ACC.
A 2-0 Saturday made it six straight covers for the Previewer; as North Carolina came through as a seven- point favorite at home with a, 77-59, win over Florida State, and Texas Tech cashed easily as a five-point home favorite with a, 91-62, win over Kansas.
I’ll look to keep things rolling tonight, with the one featured game of the evening, as Duke makes the trip to Blacksburg, to take on the VA Tech Hokies, in a clash of two of the ACC’s elite.
I’ll be back with another preview for tomorrow’s slate; but for tonight, let’s take a look at the game with the most intrigue – for the College Basketball fans out there who like to make things a little more interesting.
3 Duke (24-3, 12-2) @ 20 VA Tech (21-6, 10-5)
7:00 pm ET ESPN
Open: Duke – 3.5
Spread: Duke – 4.5
Consensus: Duke 82%
Injuries will play the biggest factor in a situational handicap for tonight’s game, as both teams will be without stars. Duke’s Zion Williamson is the obvious big name missing – having missed one full game since getting injured early in Duke’s loss @ Carolina (6th) – he has arguably been the most impactful player in the country for much of the season; while VA Tech’s Senior PG Justin Robinson played a major role on the Hokies (33rd Assist Rate in NCAA), before going down on February 3rd.
Duke bounced back from the, 82-77, loss at Carolina, with a, 75-65, win at Syracuse on Saturday – falling back on the services of Freshman guard, RJ Barrett (30 pts), to come away with the win.
Now with a one-seed in both the ACC and the NCAA Tournaments at stake, Duke will hit the road for the second straight game to try to steal one from the Hokies, who have gone just 3-3 since losing Robinson back in early February.
Though VA Tech’s losses have been respectable: losing to Louisville (19) by eight, @ Clemson (33rd) by eight, and to Virginia (1st) by six, their wins haven’t been spectacular by any means (vs. Georgia Tech (109th) by eight, vs. Pitt (86th) by six, and @ Notre Dame by eight).
With Duke coming to Blacksburg, in Primetime, this is another chance for the Hokies to prove to themselves, as well as the world, that they are still an elite team – minus their star Point Guard – which they have yet to do.
Keys to the Matchup:
The key matchup to consider here is the Duke offense (3rd) – which certainly does suffer without Zion (4th NCAA FG%) – featuring RJ Barrett (281st assist rate NCAA), Jr. C Marques Bolden (109th 2P% NCAA), and Freshman PG Tre Jones (11th ACC turnover rate), against the VA Tech defense (28th).
Duke, being an offense that has relied very heavily on attacking the basket with points inside (33rd), where they shoot over 58% (4th) with Zion, may find it difficult getting good looks inside against this Hokie defense that only allows 40.6% of its points inside (349th).
Where VA Tech has been beat is on the perimeter, where they allow 43.6% of their points to be scored (1st), in allowing a near 34% from beyond the arc (142nd). This is where Duke might just be what the doctor ordered for the Hokie defense, for the Blue Devils haven been one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the nation (328th).
Perhaps, a hidden advantage for VA Tech – who primarily employs a zone, designed to keep teams out of the paint – which may not be fully considered in the number.
There is no doubt that the VA Tech offense (13th) has suffered a bit since the loss of Robinson, but the Hokies still have plenty of firepower. Led by Junior PF Ty Outlaw (33rd FG% NCAA), Junior C Kerry Blackshear (60th NCAA Offensive Reb), and Sophomore PG Nickeil Alexander-Walker (11th ACC Assist Rate), the Hokies are more of a stretch the floor offense, looking for points from the perimeter primarily (26th), where they shoot it at a 40% clip, as a team.
Whether they can execute against Duke’s stingy perimeter defense, which only allows 28.7% of shots to fall from three (5th) is the question, but again, the absence of one of the better shot-blocking players in the ACC (12th), in Zion, could help free up some looks.
Though Duke definitely excels at stopping what Tech does best, it’s difficult to call it a hidden advantage because the impact of Zion’s absence can’t be understated on Duke’s defense.
Duke is 6-3 ATS on the road
Duke is 6-4 ATS in their last 10
VA Tech is 3-6 ATS at home
VA Tech is 4-5-1 ATS in their last 10
Early action has been all over Duke, and oddsmakers have responded with a one-point move to 4.5, as a consensus. With Pinnacle still down at four and Bovada up to five, the dichotomy within the market is apparent, and the move appears to be more in response to heavy lopsided recreational consensus more than anything.
Lean: VA Tech 4.5 -110
This game is tough to handicap, because with Zion being out only one full game, it’s difficult to quantify just how much he means to Duke. Couple that with the fact that VA Tech really has no quality wins since Robinson has been out and one has to wonder how much we really know about these teams without their stars.
Just under a week ago, however, we saw VA Tech play, the best team in the nation statistically, Virginia, very close at home (L, 64-58) – and in that game, as a team that shoots 40% from the arc, the Hokies only shot 10.7% from three on 28 attempts. That was enough to prove to me that VA Tech can hang with anybody at home, and given the hidden matchup edge they’ll have on defense (1st in point distribution 2P%), Duke may be an ideal matchup for the Hokies – especially without Zion.