Virginia Basketball: Scouting Report for the Showdown with Duke

David Aldridge@davidmaldridgeFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2013

Virginia Basketball: Scouting Report for the Showdown with Duke

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    The Virginia Cavaliers take on the No. 3 Duke Blue Devils in an ACC showdown Thursday night at John Paul Jones Arena.

    With a win over the Blue Devils, Virginia would move much closer to securing a berth in the NCAA tournament. A loss wouldn't necessarily hurt the Cavaliers' resume, but it would leave them almost no margin for error for the remainder of the season.

    Both teams are coming off dominant victories from this past weekend, with Virginia defeating Georgia Tech by 28 points and Duke blowing out Boston College by 21 points.

    Bleacher Report's Ben Gibson has already addressed some of the keys to the game, so let's take a look at a scouting report of the Blue Devils.

    (All stats via

Quinn Cook

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    33.4 MPG, 12.1 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.8 RPG, 42% FG, 86% FT

    Quinn Cook, Duke's sophomore point guard, has grown in his first full season at the helm of the Blue Devil offense.

    Cook has increased his production in all major statistical categories from his freshman season and played his best against some of the nation's top point guards.

    Cook is most effective when he can push the ball in transition and beat his defender off the dribble to make plays. He can be a streaky outside shooter but he's also proven to be very effective with a floater from inside 10 feet.

    In order for Jontel Evans to have success defending Duke's point guard, Evans will need to force him to slow down and keep him from getting in the lane.

Seth Curry

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    30.8 MPG, 16.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 46% FG, 82% FT

    A strong argument could be made that Seth Curry deserves to win the ACC Player of the Year Award.

    Since his poor performance against Miami on January 23, Curry has scored in double-figures in nine straight games and scored more than 20 points in five of those games.

    Despite having limited practice time this season because of a leg injury, Curry is Duke's most explosive offensive player and shoots over 43 percent from three-point range.

    Although he is nearly impossible to stop, the most effective way to contain Curry is to use bigger players with length who can be physical with him and disrupt his rhythm. Defenders must also work to stay with Curry, who constantly uses screens and moves without the ball to get good looks.

    Even if Virginia can't stop Curry, the Cavaliers will need to work to chase him off the three-point line and force him to take contested mid-range shots.

Rasheed Sulaimon

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    29.9 MPG, 12.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.2 APG, 44% FG, 83% FT

    After going through a mid-season shooting slump that affected the rest of his game, Rasheed Sulaimon is playing his best basketball of the season.

    The freshman guard from Houston, Texas, has averaged over 18 points in Duke's past four games while shooting 53 percent from the field. Sulaimon has also connected on his last 18 free throws.

    While he is capable of knocking down perimeter shots, Sulaimon's greatest strengths are in his mid-range game and his ability to attack the rim. He is also an excellent defender who can disrupt the passing lanes with his length.

    When facing Duke, most teams focus their defensive efforts on Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry. With the way Rasheed Sulaimon is playing, he's someone the Cavaliers better have an answer for.

Josh Hairston

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    13.4 MPG, 2.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.3 APG, 47% FG, 62% FT

    When Ryan Kelly went down with a foot injury on January 8, it forced Mike Krzyzewski to make a change in his starting lineup.

    Josh Hairston was first given the opportunity to start in Kelly's place, but Krzyzewski rotates between Hairston and Amile Jefferson based on situations and who's playing better.

    Virginia shouldn't be too concerned about Hairston's offense. He occasionally scores in the paint or hits a mid-range jump shot, but he isn't one of the primary options for the Blue Devils.

    However, the Cavaliers do need to account for Hairston's presence on defense. He is an extremely active defender who has a knack for drawing charges and putting the other team in foul trouble.

Mason Plumlee

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    34.4 MPG, 17.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.0 APG, 59% FG, 66% FT

    Mason Plumlee has been Duke's rock this season, leading the team in minutes, points and rebounds per game.

    He is a leading candidate for the ACC Player of the Year Award and is still being discussed as a potential National Player of the Year.

    For Virginia to have success against Plumlee, they must beat him for position in the paint. Plumlee isn't nearly as effective offensively when he is forced to catch the ball away from the basket and put the ball on the floor before making a post move.

    If Plumlee does establish position, the Cavaliers should be physical and smart with fouls and force him to earn his points at the free-throw line.

Bench: Amile Jefferson, Tyler Thornton, Alex Murphy

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    In addition to the starters, Mike Krzyzewski has three primary contributors he brings off the bench.

    Tyler Thornton is the backup point guard who is an extremely physical defender and has the ability to make the outside shot. On offense, Thornton loves to set up in the corner and wait for a kick-out pass for an open look at three-point shot.

    As mentioned in a previous slide, Amile Jefferson shares time with Josh Hairston as the second big man alongside Josh Hairston. Jefferson is a high-energy guy who is extremely active and looks to make plays around the basket.

    At 6'8", 195 lbs., Jefferson looks like a guy who would struggle with contact but his quickness and footwork makes him a difficult player to defend.

    Alex Murphy has great physical ability but has struggled with confidence this season. Murphy's confidence appears to be growing in the past few games, and he occasionally provides an offensive spark for the Blue Devils.