[5 AP / 4 Coaches] Duke (24-4, 11-2) vs. Virginia Tech (15-13, 4-9)
Saturday, February 25, 2012 • 12:00 p.m. • ACC Network
The Opening Tip
• Duke (24-4, 11-2) faces Virginia Tech in an ACC home contest on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tipoff is set for 12:00 p.m.
• Tim Brandt (play-by-play) and Cory Alexander (analyst) will call the game for the ACC Network.
• Duke is ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll and No. 4 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. The Blue Devils are 68-24 when ranked No. 5 in the AP Poll. Virginia Tech is not ranked in either poll.
• Duke is the only team in the NCAA to rank in the top 5 in RPI, Strength of Schedule as well as the AP and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls. Duke has three wins against top 10 teams in the RPI.
• The Blue Devils are 12-2 at home this season with both losses coming against ACC teams. Duke has not lost more than two games on Coach K Court since the 2006-07 season.
• With Thursday’s win at Florida State, Duke has assumed first place in the ACC standings.
Duke-Virginia Tech Series
• Duke and Virginia Tech have met 46 times heading into Saturday’s game with the first meeting between the two schools coming on Feb. 16, 1912.
• The Blue Devils lead the all-time series 38-8, including a 9-3 ledger since the Hokies joined the ACC.
• Duke won the previous meeting this season 75-60 in Blacksburg, Va., thanks to an 18-point effort from freshman Austin Rivers. Duke has won two in a row in the series and six of the last seven meetings.
• The Blue Devils are 15-1 against the Hokies in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
• Mike Krzyzewski is 9-3 at Duke against the Hokies, including a 4-1 record in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
• Six of Duke’s last seven wins over Virginia Tech have been by at least 12 points. Duke’s last three losses to Virginia Tech have been by no more than four points.
l Duke has been ranked in the top 10 of the AP Poll for 90 straight weeks, the third-longest streak in NCAA history.
l The Blue Devils are 13-3 on the year in games decided by 10 points or less. The Blue Devils have six wins in ACC play by less than 10 points. Duke’s 13 wins by 10 points or less are tied for the sixth most in school history.
l Duke averages 25.5 points per game off the bench with 11 games with 30 or more bench points. The Blue Devils have had a double-digit scorer off the bench in 21 of 28 games this season.
l Only four Duke teams have won their first seven ACC road games. The Blue Devils are 7-0 in ACC road games, joining the 2005-06, 1999-2000 and 1998-99 teams as the only groups to win their first seven ACC road contests. Duke has not gone undefeated in ACC road games since 1999-2000.
l Duke has hit at least eight three-pointers in seven straight games. During that streak, the Blue Devils are shooting 37.8 percent from three-point range while averaging 30.4 ppg. from three-pointers.
l Andre Dawkins leads the ACC with a .422 three-point shooting percentage. Dawkins is 65-of-154 from beyond the arc this season and ranks third in made three-pointers.
l Duke has a +15.7 scoring margin in Cameron Indoor Stadium and a +6.6 rebounding margin at home. The Blue Devils score an average of 82.9 points per game on Coach K Court while holding opponents to 67.2 points per game. Duke has outrebounded nine of 14 opponents at home.
l Duke’s perimeter defense has improved significantly over the last 13 games. Duke has held those 13 opponents to a .277 shooting percentage from beyond the arc and allowed just three of those teams to shoot better than .350 from three-point range.
l Austin Rivers leads Duke in scoring at 15.2 points per game and has reached double figures in 24 contests. He is attempting to become just the third Duke freshman to lead the team in scoring.
l Miles Plumlee is averaging 9.0 points and 11.5 rebounds over his last four games. He has two double-figure rebounding games and two double-figure scoring games during that span, including a Coach K-era record 22 boards against Maryland.
l Seth Curry has made 16 consecutive free throws and 35 of his last 38 free throw attempts. He ranks second in the ACC with an .884 free throw percentage, which would rank as the seventh highest single-season mark in school history.
l Duke has had at least four double-figure scorers in 16 games this season. The Blue Devils are 15-1 when at least four players score 10 points.
l Seven Duke players have started at least 10 games this season, tying the school record. Duke last had seven players with at least 10 starts in 2008-09.
It's gameday for Duke at North Carolina and if one lives in the Triangle area almost everywhere you go or look, somebody is wearing a shade of blue. When the Blue Devils and Tar Heels come together, it's as if time stops until games end and once that happens one fanbase is extremely elated while the other deals with a tough couple of days.
Whether one walks into a convenience store, sits down to eat in a restaurant, works out in a gym, takes the kids to kindergarten, somebody is likely to ask you with often times a southern drawl, "Who you got tonight?" followed by a little smack talk as they bait you into conversation. Some fans even worry themselves into a frenzy making one wonder if their should be a new addition to the DSMV manual. Work productivity goes way down and sports bars make a killing.
Fans gather in droves to watch the game in a mix of both dark and light blue. Others couldn't watch a game with the other side if they had to. Many will put on their lucky charms and colors, some will go through rituals. You can almost hear the pacing in households afar once the game starts and all hang on every single play, every call and ride a roller coaster of emotion that leaves them drenched in sweat from the stress by nights end.
A bit later, I will meet with a co worker to eat and then head to Chapel Hill to the Dean Dome which is mere minutes from Duke University where car flags will be a flapping and the color goes to a lighter hue as you approach. Once checked in, it's off to the media area for me, setting up a good two hours in advance and then talking with the throng of reporters from both far and near as the teams begin to warm up in the background. And while the media cannot cheer on press row and must remain professional and objectionable, you can read their faces and clearly see who they're for and trust me, eveybody has a dog in this race if you are local media.
Anyhow, here are a bunch of random thoughts going into tonight's game -
UNC favored by 6 points
When the line came out it caused several folks to raise an eyebrow. Every single media person I have spoken to this week thinks UNC will win this game easily and or that the line is too low. Many feel they'll go double digits on Duke and never look back and local bookies have added points to that total to try and keep money coming in on Duke. I in no way advocate betting and only speak of this for entertainment purposes and trust me gambling has a dark side, so beware. And while I am at it, if you are goaded into a sucker bet by the opposing fans and friends, it's your own fault. If you want to take the chance of wearing the other teams colors for a week at work, go right ahead;)
Numbers, stats and more numbers
Everywhere you look there are people throwing out numbers and they prove to be quite interesting. Duke has won 20 of the last 30 against UNC, Duke is even at the Dean Dome ... so on. The truth of the matter though, is that when these two teams get together, you can throw conventional wisdom out the window. But while I seem to be making fun of the numbers, I still read them and here is a must read article from my friend, Al Featherston at Duke Basketball Report that is well worth your time.
The biggest advantage for UNC is ...
It is not their front court of Barnes, Henson and Zeller. It is not Kendall Marshall, the league leader in assists. It is their experience. The aforementioned front line all returned for UNC when all of them could have gone in the first round in the NBA draft. These guys are battle tested now and for the most part the Tar Heels are an old team. The Tar Heels fast break finishes a close second in my book and Duke must control the glass enough against the leagues best rebounding team to win.
Who is ready to step up for Duke?
Is there a Fred Lind or Reggie Love in the group? Lind, then a bench warmer, went off against UNC in the sixties and has become a legend for his performance when Duke starting center Mike Lewis fouled out. Love, a former Barrack Obama aide was a walk on from the football team that filled in when Duke had injuries to Carlos Boozer, outplaying his UNC opponent which helped Duke close out the Heels in their backyard. For Duke to win tonight, it will likely take a player or players stepping up their game to a beyond normal level.
Duke rocked UNC at the ACC Tournament and proceeded to cut the nets. But that team had Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. Nolan scored 20 plus points in that game and dished out 10 assists. This years Duke team is averaging just under 13 assists per contest combined. Again, I point to experience and you can bet they'll miss those dimes and Smittys' on ball defense. Remembering that loss could serve a a plus side intangible for the Tar Heels, who will be hell bent on revenge.
Plumlees have had success
Duke will need to hit the boards as a team tonight but I feel many are underestimating the abilities of Team Plumlee. Both Mason and Miles have had success against the UNC front court but that help side defense from Singler is missing and Kelly and others will have to fill that role. The key for Duke will be to keep Mason out of early foul trouble and to adjust as a team to the way the game will be called.
Young Devils will need to step up
This will be Austin Rivers first trip to Chapel Hill and freshman past, not matter how good they are have taken a beating at times in this series. Rivers will be a focal point for the Tar Heels defense and seeing if he can rise past that attention will be interesting. Quinn Cook will also need to be calm cool and collected and that will not be easy in a hostile environment. Here is ESPN on how freshman will play key roles in the game.
A Duke loss will add pressure to the team
If Duke loses to UNC this evening and Florida State and N.C. State win along with Miami and Virginia which is all likely to happen, the Blue Devils will find themselves in a three way tie for 4th place in the ACC. That in turn will make my job hard as much of the fan base will freak out on the message boards and quite frankly I do not look forward to that happening. So, be forewarned that this loss could be devastating but keep your composure please and be a good and supportive fan. Also, Duke would then face an N.C State team in Cameron this weekend that is a half game ahead in the standings. Funny how big that game has suddenly become and getting that 20th win can get harder and harder until a victory is achieved.
That darn Harry guy ...
Harrison Barnes spurned Duke at the midnight hour and then chose UNC but he didn't exactly do it in what many would consider proper decorum. His clunky Skype lives as a reminder to other stars not to go that route and few have done so since that time. Interestingly, Barnes immediately starting loathing Duke after his decision and he is perhaps one of the more detested Tar Heels for Blue Devil fans. But Barnes leads his team in scoring and the talk in media rooms is if the Tar Heels will get four players on first team All ACC. Barnes is a huge matchup problem for Duke and any other team and he took a mild shot over the bow as he mentioned that Kyle Singler was gone and that he'd gladly take shorter players to the rack.
On paper it looks like a UNC win
Everything points to a UNC victory in paper. Duke has lost two of their last three conference games in Cameron and Krzyzewski has been looking for upper classmen to step up. UNC has up to four 1st team All ACC players starting. That game is in Chapel Hill and the Blue Devils seem to still be coming together as a team. But you know what? Duke has a chance any time they step on the court. Duke has been beat down of late but if the team plays together anything can happen and that's why we watch the games. My objectionable pick would be for the Tar Heels to win but my heart says Duke can pull off a shocker and make all the aforementioned worries go to the wayside.
Don't hold me to all the numbers mentioned for everything here was off the top of my head and just random thoughts before tonight's game. BDN will be in the house to bring you live tweets and post game chats with the players, so stay tuned for our usual wall to wall coverage. And yes, I am homer media, so I can get away with saying, "GTHC, GTH!" It should be a lot of fun as the best rivalry in all sports is once again upon us.
ST. LOUIS (USBWA) - The U.S. Basketball Writers Association has selected Duke forward Mason Plumlee as its Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week for games ending the week of Sunday, Jan. 29. The USBWA's weekly honor is presented by Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook and will be handed out each Tuesday through Feb. 21 this season.
Plumlee, a 6-10 junior from Warsaw, Ind., averaged 19.0 points, 14.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in leading the Blue Devils to wins over Maryland and St. John's. He opened the week with a 23-point, 12-rebound, four-assist performance in a 74-61 win at Maryland. He was 9-of-13 from the field and knocked down all five free throws in the contest.
In Saturday's 83-76 win over Big East foe St. John's, Plumlee recorded his ACC-leading ninth double-double of the season with 15 points and a career-best 17 rebounds. For the week, Plumlee shot 66.7 percent (14-of-21) from the field and 71.4 percent (10-fo-14) from the foul line.
This is the third season that the USBWA has selected a national player of the week. The weekly Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week is added to the Oscar Robertson Trophy watch list, which will be released at mid-season.
Since the 1958-59 season, the USBWA has named a National Player of the Year. In 1998, the award was named in honor of the University of Cincinnati Hall of Famer and two-time USBWA Player of the Year Oscar Robertson. It is the nation's oldest award and the only one named after a former player.
A busy week lies ahead for Duke Athletics and BDN Monday Musings takes a look at the many events that will take place starting with tonight's UConn at Duke Women's game. The Blue Devils have two men's games as well one on the road and one at home and national signing day for football.
UConn at Duke - the ultimate measuring stick for the progrm on "Big Monday"
In a nationally televised game, the 5th Duke women (17-2) host the traditionally strong and 3rd ranked UConn women (19-2) led by their enigmatic coach Gino Auriemma. The Huskies lost to the top two rated teams in the country Baylor and Notre Dame before going on a monster roll, where they demolished the Blue Devils arch rival, North Carolina by a score of 86-35 and all other comers as well. The key to the game for the Blue Devils will be for their guards, Chelsea Gray and Tricia Liston to slow the Huskies backcourt of Tiffany Hayes and Bria Hartley. As we've said in a past column, Duke freshman Elizabeth Williams is as advertised and tonight she'll be on the big stage with the rest of this young Blue Devil squad. There are still a few tickets left for the game and they're very reasonably priced, so turn out tonight for this heavyweight bout and cheer the young Blue Devils to victory.
Rest for the men's team
The Duke Men's team returned to the practice courts today after taking off time to rest after their lack luster victory over St. John's. The Blue Devils will travel to Blacksburg on Thursday to take on a wounded in wait Hokies team that would love to make their season with an upset win. One of the things happening is this years squad is getting accustomed to taking other teams best shot as some of the players grow into their roles.
Speaking of roles ... who will step up?
Before the season Coach Krzyzewski said that different players would step up on different evenings on this years team. And that's what has happened to date and the Blue Devils are a not too shabby 18-3 from it. But will any of the players have that light go off down the stretch and take over their roles in a consistent manner? Mason Plumlee has pretty much been the star of this team and or the most consistent player. Austin Rivers is on a learning curve, but his numbers are decent as well. I mean, the kid will likely be named the ACC's Top Rookie. But are juniors Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Andre Dawkins ready to break out? Duke needs more consistency from the group, but make no mistake, each of them have already played key roles in major victories as has sophomore Tyler Thornton in Maui. This is also the final go round for senior Miles Plumlee and can he become a force as the season enters it's grind? And this folks, this is why we watch the games, to see how it all will unfold.
Just a reminder ... March 16th and 18th NCAA Tournament in the 'Boro
Get your tickets for Greensboro now Blue Devil fans! Duke will almost assuredly be in Greensboro for two games and the kicker is that North Carolina will share that pod. That said, get your tickets to the event as soon as possible.
The last ten games
It's hard to believe that there are just ten regular season basketball games left this season and just five of them home games in Cameron. Breaking it down for you, there are two games each with Virginia Tech and North Carolina, Miles senior day being the last regular season and home game. Then road trips to Boston College, Florida State and Wake Forest and home games with Miami, Maryland and N.C. State. So, how do you think the Blue Devils will fare? I have heard 6-4 to 8-2 most often from those who cover the team.
National Signing Day for Football
On Wednesday, BDN will be on hand at Duke to hear the latest on the new group of Blue Devils from Coach Cutcliffe and staff. We're talking national signing day here and it is a big deal around the nation. Several prospects are taking their decision to the midnight hour and in our premium section, Patrick Cacchio talks of that and how things are shaking out with the likes of RB hopeful, Jela Duncan. Also, mark down March 31st on your calendar, for it is the date of the annual spring game where Duke returns 17 starters from a season ago.
Just do it!
I am not going to open the can of worms known at the decline in attendance for the Cameron Crazies at this time. There are five home games left and this is a team that needs the support in a big way, so no lecture or speculation from me other than this suggestion - Just do it! Sorry for the overuse of that Nike trademark, but it's what I'd tell them to do down the stretch if asked what should be done. Prove the critics wrong and show them you are not the weak bunch many think you to be. Man, was that a challenge or what? Crazies means getting crazy, so let go of yourselves, have fun and all will play out. I have faith that the many who follow this site can get it done. And for what it is worth many of the ones there are the best and if their leadership spreads, you will hear few complaints by seasons end.