The Duke Blue Devils finally take the court in the 2012 ACC tournament, and they're going to get a tough challenge from the surging Virginia Tech Hokies.
Having won the last three ACC tournaments, Duke is striving to come out on top once again. However, the Hokies are hoping to spoil their fun and pull off the big upset.
It's March, so anything can happen in college basketball. The Hokies may have lost to Duke both times in the year, but they played strong, which gives them the confidence they need to win.
Of course, the Blue Devils have been rock-solid all season long, and their top talent will do everything in their power to prevent an opening-round loss.
That being said, let's take a look at some specifics for this ACC showdown.
Who Will Win?
When: Friday, March 9 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta, Ga.
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Betting Line: Duke (-8.5) according to VegasInsider.com
What's at Stake?
For Duke, a loss would end its streak of ACC titles and also do a great deal of damage to its chances of a top seed in the NCAA tournament. A win and it'll be in prime position to reach the finals.
Virginia Tech has nothing to lose here, which makes it very dangerous. They pulled off one upset over Clemson, so don't sleep on the Hokies just yet. If they want to play in the NCAA tournament, they're going to have continue to get hot and win the ACC tournament for the automatic bid.
Virginia Tech Injury Report
*According to the Chicago Tribune
F Victor Davila (groin): Questionable
Duke Injury Report
*According to the Chicago Tribune
F Josh Hairston (concussion): Day-to-day
F Ryan Kelly (foot): Out
What They're Saying
Becoming even clearer Duke would rather face Clemson. VT's length and athleticism could cause big problems on perimeter and defensive glass.— Duke Basketball (@dukebasketball) March 9, 2012
This is no surprise, considering the Hokies took Duke into overtime the last time they played. It's going to be an intense game, and Duke knows this.
The Hokies definitely benefit from the Blue Devils not having Ryan Kelly. Look for their bigs to storm the court and be aggressive all game long.
Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg told the Washington Post that he told his team just to finish and give it their all:
We talked to them all week about finishing and making one more play, one more stop, get one more 50-50 ball, take a charge, make an extra pass. ... Just one more play. That’s the kind of thing that has eluded us this season.
The Hokies will have to use this mentality against Duke and strive for the upset. By giving that extra hustle and making one more play out of it, the Hokies will do very well.
However, Duke is going to be at the top of its game too, which will make for such a great game.
Virginia Tech Player To Watch
Erick Green is the best player for the Hokies. His stellar performance against Clemson last night is perfect proof of that.
Green dropped 24 points, helping Virginia Tech pull off the upset while other key players were either hurt or on the bench.
Look for Green to put the team on his back tonight, doing all he can to help the Hokies win again.
Duke Player To Watch
With Ryan Kelly out, the pressure turns to Mason Plumlee. Duke is now down a big man, and since Plumlee is their other top forward, he'll need to step up in a major way.
Plumlee averaged just 11 points per game this season, but he also averaged nine rebounds per game.
Expect Plumlee to be playing with more intensity tonight, forcing the Hokies to try to do their best to stop him.
Will Duke Win the 2012 ACC Tournament?
Whichever team wins the matchup down low will come out on top. Crashing the boards will be key in this game, and it's Duke that has the size advantage.
Still, the Hokies can control the paint, and even though it won't be easy, it's something they definitely have to do.
Look for the Hokies to come out strong, giving the rested Blue Devils a tough time at first. They're amped up for this game. That will help them right from the start.
However, in the end, Duke will come out on top because it is the better team. Austin Rivers takes over late, helping the Blue Devils advance in the tournament.
Duke 72, Virginia Tech 69