Last Updated: 2019-03-26
It’s the ACC showdown in the East Region Sweet Sixteen as the No. 4 seed Virginia Tech Hokies take on the No. 1 seed Duke Blue Devils at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC, on Friday, March 29, 2019. The Blue Devils are listed as 7.5-point favorites with the total at 144.5 points and Virginia Tech at +280 money line odds, and the Hokies have already beaten Duke 77-72 as 3.5-point home dogs earlier this season. The Hokies defeated Saint Louis and Liberty to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, while the Blue Devils beat North Dakota State and UCF in their first two games in the tournament.
The Virginia Tech Hokies had an easy job against Saint Louis in the first round, beating the Billikens 66-52. The Hokies dominated their rivals at the defensive end, building a 22-point in the first half. They allowed the Billikens to shoot just 36.5% from the field and 17.4% from downtown while forcing them into 18 turnovers. The Hokies had a more difficult job in the second round, defeating the Liberty Flames 67-58 after another strong defensive performance. They need to continue with an impressive defensive job when they enter the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 52 years.
The Hokies are allowing 93.0 points per 100 possessions this season (23rd in the country) on 48.6 effective field goal percentage (75th). They are playing at a very slow pace, averaging 65.1 possessions per 40 minutes (331st). Virginia Tech is scoring 117.4 points per 100 possessions (12th) on 55.9 effective field goal percentage (10th), while the Hokies’ strength of schedule was 53rd in the country. The junior forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. was a key player for the Hokies last weekend, tallying 15 points against Saint Louis while posting 19 points and 9 rebounds versus Liberty. The sophomore guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker is averaging 16.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.9 assists this term, while the senior guard Justin Robinson is adding 13.4 points and 5.0 assists per outing.
Duke dominated North Dakota State in the first round, beating the Bison 85-62, but the Blue Devils were on the verge of elimination in the second round. They somehow outlasted the UCF Knights 77-76, and their rivals had two attempts in the final few seconds to win the game. The Blue Devils were pretty lucky to make it to the Sweet Sixteen and will need a much better job on both ends of the floor if they want to proceed further. The coach K is certainly disappointed with the defensive effort, as his boys allowed the Knights to make 48.1% of their field goals along with nine triples out of 18 attempts from deep. Still, Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett both had excellent offensive roles down the stretch, and Barrett grabbed the crucial rebound following Zion’s missed free throw to make the decisive basket against UCF.
The Blue Devils are scoring 119.0 points per 100 possessions this term (8th in the country) on 53.5 effective field goal percentage while making just 30.7% of their 3-pointers. However, Duke shot 10-of-25 from beyond the arc against the Knights. The Blue Devils are playing at a very fast pace, recording 73.7 possessions per 40 minutes (18th in the country). On the other side, they are surrendering 88.8 points per 100 possessions (6th) on 44.9 effective field goal percentage (9th). Duke’s strength of schedule was 13th in the country. Zion Williamson is averaging 22.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game while shooting 68.4% from the field. R.J. Barrett is tallying 22.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per contest, while another freshman Cam Reddish is adding 13.6 points per outing.
Pick: Virginia Tech Hokies +7.5
This game will be a pure joy to watch. The Hokies know they can beat Duke even though Zion Williamson didn’t play in that 77-72 defeat on February 26. On the other side, the Blue Devils will seek a payoff and are certainly encouraged after surviving the Knights in the previous round. The key factor will be pace, and I think the Hokies are capable of slowing down the Blue Devils. Also, the Hokies are executing well at the offensive end, so I’m backing them to stay close and cover the spread.
Virginia Tech has defeated Duke in three of their last four head-to-head meetings, while the Hokies are 3-8 straight up and 7-4 ATS in their previous 11 encounters with the Blue Devils. The under is 8-3 in that 11-game span. Also, the Blue Devils are just 3-10 ATS in their last 13 outings and are 3-6 ATS in their previous nine Sweet Sixteen matchups.
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