Duke already swept Virginia and it’s looking to take down the other school from the state. Virginia Tech has a nice 21-6 record, yet doesn’t have many big wins and this is another chance to change that. The big question for Duke is if Zion Williamson will play and considering it won at Syracuse on Saturday without him, there’s little reason to push him back to action before he’s ready.
If Zion plays, that definitely helps the Blue Devils, but either way, the home team will be at a disadvantage. The Hokies also have an injury to worry about since second-leading scorer Justin Robinson has missed the last six Games with a foot injury and if he misses another, it’s hard to see them stealing a win. When faced with top competition with or without Robinson, the Hokies have struggled, whether against Virginia or North Carolina or even a lesser team like Louisville.
The problem for the Hokies in this matchup is that they rank as the ninth-best defense in the ACC in terms of efficiency and that even includes holding NC State to 24 points. They’ll also be at a size disadvantage even if Williamson doesn’t play. Kerry Blackshear has been a beast and has at least 22 points in the last three Games, but he’s the only regular player that comes in above 6-foot-6. While he could have success against Marques Bolden and company, that may not be enough. It also doesn’t help that leading scorer Nickeil Alexander-Walker will be marked by Tre Jones, who is considered one of the best defensive point guards in the country. If Alexander-Walker continues his recent struggles, shooting just 8-for-27 in the last three Games, it’s hard to see the Hokies winning.
Defensively, there are even more issues since Virginia Tech doesn’t have the size to deal with RJ Barrett or Cam Reddish. While they’ll likely play a ton of zone, Duke just dealt with Syracuse and any kind of zone thrown against them probably won’t work. Ty OUtlaw and Ahmed Hill are quality, experienced players, but neither will have an edge against Barrett, or even Reddish. Alex O’Connell also stepped up his Game against Syracuse and is apparently someone you can’t leave open. The main goal for Tech will be to limit Barrett to around 20 points. Without Williamson, Barrett has took it upon himself to do everything with 63 points, 18 boards and 11 assists in the last two Games. The Hokies could put everything into stopping him, but they don’t exactly have the lineup to do that, and he also just showed he could beat up a zone.
The Hokies are at home and in need of a major win, but since they’ve already failed to beat top teams, there’s little reason to trust them in this spot, even if Williamson doesn’t play and Robinson returns. After coming back in the second half against the Orange, a lot of people will continue to throw money at the Blue Devils when the spread is low enough and this is another situation for that to happen.
Our Pick – Duke -4.5