Second-ranked Duke is set to enter another phase of the season that is bound to be memorable in numerous ways.
It’s the final go-around in the Atlantic Coast Conference for Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski.
The Blue Devils open their ACC slate against Virginia Tech on Wednesday night in Durham, N.C.
“We have to just keep getting better,” Krzyzewski said.
Duke (10-1) is the preseason favorite in the ACC and is also the only team in the conference in the current Top 25.
“This is about as good of a Duke team that I’ve seen in quite some time,” Virginia Tech coach Mike Young said.
Virginia Tech (8-4, 0-1) has already played an ACC game, losing at home earlier this month against Wake Forest. Yet the Hokies had been on the cusp of moving into the rankings earlier this season.
“We are going to play against a veteran team in Virginia Tech,” Krzyzewski said. “They play together. They are older and they are very good.”
Duke tuned up by winning three home games across five days last week, prevailing each of those contests by at least 25 points.
The Blue Devils have been consistent in many ways, including the use of the same starting lineup in every game.
The two teams are tops in the ACC in scoring margin, with Duke at 21.7 and Virginia Tech at 15.1.
The Hokies will aim to keep the pace to their liking. That means limiting the Blue Devils in transition and locating Duke’s 3-point shooters.
“That’s everything,” Young said of the importance of making Duke earn points in half-court sets. “We’re doing a better job defensively of being there on the catch (to defend 3-point shooters).”
Duke will be aware of the need for rebounding, perhaps at a higher level. The Blue Devils have a rebounding margin on opponents of less than three boards per game.
That’s bound to be emphasized when going against more teams with strong post presences in ACC play.
“Sometimes we just try to outjump the guy and just try and go straight for the ball instead of going for the defender,” Duke center Mark Williams said. “Sometimes that doesn’t work.”
Virginia Tech’s Justyn Mutts and Keve Aluma rank among the top 18 in the ACC in rebounding. Williams tops the league with three blocked shots per game.
The good news for the Hokies came with their 86-49 whipping of St. Bonaventure on Friday in the Basketball Hall of Fame Shootout in Charlotte, N.C. Hunter Cattoor led the charge with 21 points, going 5-for-5 on 3-point attempts.
Storm Murphy, a transfer from Wofford, added a season-best 18 points.
The Hokies appear to be heating up from the perimeter. They had their most productive games from 3-point range in two of their past three contests, sinking 12 treys against Cornell and 13 against St. Bonaventure.
Virginia Tech is 2-1 in true road games.
“I don’t think we could have done any more to best prep this team,” Young said.
Virginia Tech, playing at home, beat Duke in last season’s lone meeting, ending the Blue Devils’ three-game winning streak in the series. Only three of the past 10 matchups have been contested in Durham, with those among Duke’s eight-game home win streak against the Hokies.
–Field Level Media