When and How to Watch: Friday December 6, 7PM EST, on the ACC Network
Head Coach: Mike Kyrzyzewski (1067-286 Career W/L record)
Last Game: Win @ #11 Michigan State 87-75, to go to 8-1.
The Virginia Tech Hokies host the number 10 ranked Duke Blue Devils on Friday night in Cassell Coliseum after having a nice break to recover from their trip to Maui. Tech is already 1-0 in the ACC after a win at Clemson on opening night, while this will be Duke’s first conference game of the season. Duke is coming off a huge win at Michigan State Tuesday night as part of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge, managing to do it without one of their top players in Cassius Stanley, who suffered a hamstring injury in their previous game against Winthrop. Duke, like most teams, will have a solid height advantage on this undersized Virginia Tech team. The biggest concern will be stopping Duke’s diaper dandy, Vernon Carey Jr. I go a bit more in depth on him down below in my analysis of the roster, but to put it simply, this kid is a monster, and has the ability to get Duke an easy bucket on command. I’m struggling to imagine a way for this Tech team to be successful in this game if they decide to guard Carey with a 6’6 forward in P.J. Horne. I expect we may see a ton of double teams on Carey, forcing him to pass it back out on the perimeter, allowing Duke to try to live by the 3 as much as possible. This is simply a tough matchup for a young Virginia Tech team, but MAYBE Duke takes the Hokies a little lightly considering they just had an emotional win at Michigan State Tuesday night. The only clear advantage for Tech in this one outside of playing at home is that they should be more rested, but will that be enough to overcome the talent and size disparity? Only time will tell. This Duke team doesn’t have the same versatility as the one from a year ago that featured lottery picks in Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish, but as always, Duke has a plethora of highly rated guys for Coach K to work with.
AVG starting lineup recruit ranking per 247 Sports: 19.8
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
recruit rankings are per 247Sports.com
6’3 SO PG, Tre Jones, ranked 15
Jones is a solid floor general and the leader of this team. 2nd in scoring behind Carey Jr., Jones leads the team in assists and steals as well. His well-documented weakness last year was his 3-point shooting (26.2% on 103 attempts). Teams would legitimately let him shoot the ball and focus their defensive attention on the other big name players like Zion and RJ Barrett. He has seen an uptick in his 3 point shot to start the season, but is still just 5th on the team in that category, currently sitting at 34.3% from 3 on the year on 35 attempts. He is about an 80% free throw shooter for what it’s worth.
6’6 FR G, Cassius Stanley, ranked 37 (QUESTIONABLE).
2nd on the team in minutes per game, Stanley is Duke’s 3rd leading scorer, tied for 2nd in rebounds, 3rd in steals, 2nd in blocks, 3rd in FG%, and 3rd in 3-point FG%. He suffered a hamstring injury on November 29th in their game against Winthrop, which resulted in him missing the Michigan State game. Originally expected to be out until around Christmas time, the injury appears to be healing faster than expected, which is why he has not officially been ruled out just yet. I think in the end, Duke will probably play it safe, and let him recover, but that decision has not been announced yet. There is nobody on Duke’s roster that will be able replace his production or athleticism on an individual basis at the end of the day, so it will be up to a combination of Jack White, Joey Baker, and others, to pick up the slack. White started in place of Stanley at Michigan State.
6’6 FR F, Wendell Moore Jr., ranked 29
Moore has seen his minutes decrease over the last few games as he just doesn’t provide enough offensive spark to spread the floor. He was scoreless against Duke’s last two opponents and only played 10 minutes against Michigan State.
6’9 FR F, Matthew Hurt, ranked 12
One of their top 3-point shooters, Hurt has the size to shoot over you, but lacks the ability to take his defender off the dribble. Will try to post up some, but doesn’t have the strength and quickness to truly be effective down low.
6’10 FR C, Vernon Carey Jr., ranked 6
A monster down low, Carey has proven to be tough to stop one-on-one, and is Duke’s leading scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker. He also has shown 3-point range, making 4 out of his 5 attempts on the year. He’s much more comfortable playing with his back to the basket, using his combination of size and quickness to spin by defenders for easy layups and dunks. He runs the floor pretty well and he is a solid passer, showing the ability and awareness to make the quick pass out of the double team to open shooters. His weakness right now is at the free throw line, where he shoots under 60%. Below, I’ve provided a few videos of Carey, showing off his post moves, passing ability, and floor running.
6’7 SR F, Jack White, ranked 226
Got the start for the injured Cassius Stanley against Michigan State on Tuesday night, playing 31 minutes, and providing a little bit of everything, but he’s not a big offensive threat, especially from the outside. He shot under 28% from 3 last season, and is at around 31% so far in 2019. His field goal percentage overall isn’t that great either, and that could be attributed to the fact that he has taken almost 73% of his shots from 3 point range, where he obviously struggles. His primary role is to play good defense and crash the glass for some easy buckets.
6’6 JR G, Alex O’Connell, ranked 68
Since his freshman year at Duke, O’Connell’s 3-point percentage has gone down from 48.9%, to 37.5%, to a whopping 22.2% this season. He looks like he will probably be the odd man out in the rotation at this point unless he can drastically correct his shooting woes. He doesn’t provide much else other than a different hair style every couple of weeks.
6’10 JR F, Javin DeLaurier, ranked 39
Energy guy that can’t really create any offense on his own in the post, only really scoring on offensive rebounds and alley-oops. Moves pretty well for his size and can alter shots in the paint occasionally.
6’2 JR G, Jordan Goldwire, ranked 398
Stingy guard that is going to try and get underneath the opponent’s skin. Goldwire cannot shoot to save his life, however. He is 1-8 from 3 this season, and shot 12% from 3 last year on 25 attempts.
6’7 SO F, Joey Baker, ranked 33
Baker has emerged over the last few games as arguably Duke’s best 3-point shooter. If he can continue to prove his recent play is not a fluke, it will be massive for Duke’s chances going forward. Not overly athletic, not going to beat you off the dribble often, but when he gets an open look, he expects to knock it down. He’s shooting over 50% from 3 on 21 attempts, scoring 16 and 11 points off the bench in his last two games.
6’9 SR F, Justin Robinson, ranked 375
6’2 JR G, Mike Buckmire, not rated
Robinson and Buckmire play sparingly and have only appeared in a total of 6 games collectively.
This game is very intriguing for a couple of reasons: Duke has a tough travel schedule this week much to the dismay of Coach K. He said as much in his post game press conference at MSU; “We’re placed in a very difficult situation, our conference put us in a situation where, we’ll get back at 4 in the morning, and literally, we’re in the toughest week of our academic year, the week before exams. Two of our kids took tests last night, here, and now we gotta go back, and the next day, Thursday, fly to Blacksburg, and it’s really not a good scheduling thing by our conference, and we’ll see how our guys react.” Oh the humanity! How will the poor Dukies survive this one?! Okay, that was just a little bit of sarcasm, and he does have a point to a certain extent, but it is what it is. I do think this is a quality advantage for the home team, but I just don’t know if that will be enough for the Hokies to pull off the upset. I will like their chances a lot more IF Duke decides to sit Cassius Stanley in this one. It never hurts to play a team without a top player, so that could help keep this one close. The Hokies are going to have to hit the three like they have been thus far, and compete on the defensive glass like their lives depend on it. I’m not sure how Mike Young plans to defend Vernon Carey Jr., but if he plans on putting Horne on him, I think it could be a long night. Does Young trust his freshman center, John Ojiako, enough to try to slow Carey down? Ojiako is really the only “big man” on the roster at the moment that receives any playing time and he’s only gotten about 12 minutes a game thus far, as Young and staff try to bring him along slowly. The Alabama State graduate transfer, Branden Johnson, has seen very little time all season, but maybe Young throws him out there as well just to have somebody taller than 6’6 trying to defend Duke’s star big man. Tech’s advantage on the offensive end should be their versatility and ability to shoot from the 1 through 5 spot, assuming Horne is starting there per usual. Horne being a threat from the outside will force Carey to roam the perimeter and could open up the lane for some successful drives. That is the problem with the aforementioned bigs in Ojiako and Johnson. They provide very little threat offensively, and Tech becomes a lot easier to guard.
For Virginia Tech to win, I think it is simple. You have to attack Carey to a certain extent and try to get him in foul trouble. If he is off the court, this Duke team, especially if Stanley is out, is not loaded with individuals that can get their own buckets at will, like Zion, Barrett, and Reddish were capable of last season. They do have a damn good point guard though, in Tre Jones, and he makes this team go at the end of the day. This will be another great test for Wabissa Bede, and he’ll have to slow him down for Tech to have a chance. Cassell Coliseum should be electric tonight, and Duke is on a much shorter rest period combined with a hectic travel schedule, so Tech does have some variables working in their favor. While I do believe they have a legitimate shot at winning this one, I’m just not sure the Hokies have the depth to pull off the upset at the end of the day. A win would put Tech at the top of the ACC standings at 2-0, a feat that I’m sure very few could have possibly imagined going into this game, but the opportunity is here, and it is up to Mike Young and the Hokies to take advantage.