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Men's Basketball

Virginia vs Duke Preview

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia is looking to bounce back from a lopsided loss against Florida State  They’ll face the Duke Blue Devils on Saturday night at 8PM Eastern Time at Cameron Indoor Stadium, televised on ESPN.  It’s a special game for Wahoo stars Jay Huff and Trey Murphy returning to their hometown.

What Duke has done this season

Duke comes in with a 9-8 overall record, 7-6 in the ACC, good for 8th place.  It’s been a disappointing year for them so far.  They’re fighting an uphill battle to keep NCAA Tournament at-large hopes alive. This week brought another twist when freshman forward Jalen Johnson opted out of the remainder of the season to concentrate on his preparation for the NBA Draft.  They responded well in their first game without him, an 84-60 thumping of Wake Forest on Wednesday.

Breaking Down Duke

The Blue Devils are one of the top offensive teams in the country, with the 13th best efficiency rating.   They don’t get to the foul line much though, which is very unusual for a Duke team.  It’s a very skilled group, but not the most physically imposing.  There’s very little interior scoring presence.  They’ve had some poor defensive performances, although they seem to be improving lately.  Their last two games have been among their best on that end of the floor. 

They’re led by sophomore forward Matthew Hurt (18.3 ppg), a possible first-team All-ACC player.  He can score in a variety of ways, including from three-point range (45.5%). It’s a tough defensive assignment for the Hoos, especially when they use him as a center in their small package.  Freshman 7-footer Mark Williams, playing more in Johnson’s absence, has come on strong of late giving them needed rim protection.  

The top guards are a pair of freshmen, DJ Steward (13.2 ppg) and floor general Jeremy Roach (8.8 ppg).  Both have had big individual performances, while battling the usual first year inconsistency.  Sophomore wing Wendell Moore (9.6 ppg) has come on strong recently.  He brings a lot of lineup versatility.  Senior Jordan Goldwire (6.4 ppg) gives them a veteran presence while leading the team in assists at 3.6 per game.  It’s also worth noting that junior Joey Baker is coming off a season-high 12 points against Wake.  His role could be on the uptick due to Johnson’s departure.

Predictions

Virginia will win if

The Hoos can get back on track offensively  Maximizing Jay Huff is key against Duke.  If he has a big game, we should like the outcome.  They need to be better defensively than on Monday too.  That starts with eliminating transition opportunities.

Duke will win if

The Blue Devils continue their streak of improved defensive play.  The supporting cast outside Hurt will have to step up in the scoring department.  Getting Jay Huff in foul trouble would go a long way toward their cause.

Score Prediction: Virginia 68 Duke 64

(Image: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

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