Hope you’re buckled in for another four day weekend of college basketball.
The first weekend was competitive and featured a lot of proven teams taking care of business. The second weekend is an opportunity for more drama, including a chance for a repeat result of one of the most dramatic upsets of the regular season.
Friday night at 9:40 the top seed in the East, Duke, will play the 4th seed Virginia Tech on CBS.
On February 26th, Virginia Tech upset Duke 77-72 in Blacksburg.
Neither Zion Williamson nor Justin Robinson played in the game.
Virginia Tech utilized Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s decision making skills with the ball in his hands to thwart the Blue Devil defense. NAW had 6 assists in the game and was particularly effective when Duke defenders would climb over ball screens and stick with NAW, meaning he had drawn two defenders and could then find an open teammate for a good look.
Virginia Tech did not turn the ball over much in the game. As a team the Hokies had just 6 turnovers compared to Duke’s 12.
With Robinson back, I expect Coach K to make an adjustment and tell his guys to not go over the ball screen.
Robinson has been a part of an upset against Duke before. The Hokies upset Duke 64-63 in Feburary of 2018. Robinson was the leading assist-man for Buzz Williams in this game.
What does all this mean? VT will have two great passers on the floor which gives them a shot to work the ball around deep into possessions and figure out the best way to attack Duke.
Zion’s presence especially factors into this. He is such a good rim protector and I would imagine he’ll get a chance to shut down Kerry Blackshear. If NAW and Robinson can whip the rock around and cause switches that keep Zion away from the rim, it would be huge for Tech. This would allow Blackshear to have more freedom.
Blackshear can score from any angle. I’ve seen him awkwardly contort his body and finish with touch. I’ve seen him pull a quick, direct move to the hoop and slam it home. He can hit from 15 feet. He can hit from 3-point range. His emergence as their best offensive weapon has saved this season for Buzz.
Hokies sixth-year senior Ty Outlaw was charged with possession of marijuana but he will play in this game after passing a drug test.
Ahmed Hill has provided the team a lot of energy all season as a defensive stopper and attacking finisher around the rim.
VT can only keep winning if Hill and Outlaw are difference makers. We know what NAW, Robinson, and Blackshear can consistently provide.
How efficient will Hill be? Can Outlaw hit some momentum shifting shots to help space the floor? These are two of the biggest questions for this team.
Duke has leaned on Zion Williamson to the point where some people think he is all ESPN talks about. It’s probably because he’s the best college player since the one-and-done rule came into play. To me it’s not close either. He can do anything and does it all in a dominant, intimidating fashion. If he played at Duke for three seasons he’d be the best college player ever.
Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett provide good all around support, but after those three names there are a lot of question marks for Duke.
Tre Jones is a talented player, but seems to be stuck in a niche. His best skill is sharing the ball with the aforementioned big three of Duke. If the Hokies can get him off his passing game, that would especially hurt Reddish and Barrett.
The trick to Duke is understanding Zion will get his. But you have to make him earn it every time to increase your chances of hanging around to make a late shot, just like Outlaw did to help VT beat Duke earlier this year. If you can make Zion become an isolation player and limit Reddish and Barrett while ensuring that Tre Jones doesn’t score much, you stand a chance at beating the best team in the country.