Tonight, the Duke Blue Devils return to the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor stadium. The Crazies will be in full effect as they welcome one of the hottest teams in the ACC. Virginia is on fire of late and is looking to prove to the conference and nation that they are not a fluke.
Virginia has won an impressive 12 straight games off of great defense. Mike Scott is having a incredible senior year and is putting in a strong bid for ACC first-team honors.
Typically I break down how the other team will provide problems, but this game is different. While it will determine how good Virginia is among the conference’s elite, I have a feeling about this one.
Call me crazy, but I don’t think Duke is going to have as much trouble with it as many think. While Duke blogs and websites are calling this a true test, many Virginia blogs are actually saying that they are going to struggle with Duke.
If this is indeed going to be a blowout and statement win from Duke, then it will be because of players such as Andre Dawkins. Earlier in the week I bashed him a bit when I called him Duke’s disappearing Devil, but he needs to step up in this one.
The Virginia Cavs are a tough-nosed defensive team that have played well on the season but have only key win against Michigan. While they have survived a few scares, they have held strong in close games against Miami, LSU and Towson.
Virginia’s key to success is their ability to control the opposition on the defensive side of the ball.
If Duke is to win tonight, they will need to be successful with these three “keys to victory.”
1. Control the forest and the tree.
One of the ways Virginia controls teams is by being tough off of the boards. They play tight strong defense, not allowing the drive and dish to be successful.
Tonight Duke will have the ability to shoot. Allowing the ACC’s best shooting team the occasional open look could be disastrous for Virginia, as they will have trouble with all of the shooters Duke will put on the floor.
So my top key to victory is that the Plumlees have to control the glass on their side of the floor. Second-chance shots are going to be an important, especially down the stretch if this is close. If Duke can lead the offensive rebounds stat, then you can expect the scoreboard to lean heavily on their side.
2. Welcome Back Party
When I came back from deployment last month, my friends threw me a crazy welcome back party. That is something that needs to happen tonight for Duke’s Andre Dawkins. He needs to wear a birthday hat, have noisemakers and drain his shot time and time again.
Virginia is going to let him shoot. I say that again, Virginia is going to let Andre shoot.
He has been struggling of late, but this could be a great chance to rebound and play well. He can’t move around, can’t create his own shot and won’t carry this team, but if he is left alone he has to hit his shots. Tonight he will get his chance and he could be the most important key to victory for a Duke win tonight.
If he struggles, this game is very close and possibly an upset.
3. No point guard, BIG PROBLEM!
I expect for Quinn Cook to continue starting for the Devils. If you watched the Georgia Tech game, Cook started off very aggressive. He had five points and a handful of assists before you blinked.
That is what he needs to do for the entire game. He needs to grow and lead this team—hard task for any freshman, let alone for one of college basketball most touted institutions.
Tonight Duke needs to spread the floor. Virginia is going to play tough tight D on Cook. They will try to to keep him at bay, but his passing game is extremely important to getting open looks for the shooters.
With the floor spread, Duke will be able to get open shots. If they hit them, then two things will happen: Cook will have roughly eight assists and Duke will win by 10-plus.
Duke returns home and will gladly enjoy Cameron once again. Virginia is tough, but K has his team ready to go.
I expect Andre Dawkins to score around 12, Cook to have a solid game at the point and Austin Rivers to have an average game.
All in all, I don’t think this will be as close as everyone else. Duke by a count of 68-54.