Duke Blue Devils at Virginia Tech Hokies: ACC Game of the Week

James PattersonContributor IFebruary 25, 2011

Seth Greenberg's Virginia Tech team is desperate for a marquee win.
Seth Greenberg's Virginia Tech team is desperate for a marquee win.

It's got all the makings of an instant classic: the No. 1 team in the country heads into hostile territory to face a Virginia Tech team in serious need of a marquee win to bolster their NCAA Tournament résumé.

With only a few games left in the ACC season, Duke is trying to sew up yet another regular season championship. And with the North Carolina Tar Heels trailing by only one game in the standings, there's not much room for the Blue Devils to breathe.

Add to that the fact that ESPN's College Game Day will be there, and there's no doubt Cassell Coliseum will be rocking when Duke comes knocking Saturday night.

On paper, Duke holds a distinct advantage. The Blue Devils enter the game shooting 48 percent from the floor, including 39 percent from three-point range. Virginia Tech has struggled at times on defense this season (they gave up 11 three-pointers in a loss to Virginia last week).

Look for Duke to work around Virginia Tech's zone and take advantage of strong outside shooting.

With all five starters averaging around 30 minutes per game, the Hokies also lack the depth the top-ranked Blue Devils bring to the table. Nolan Smith, the potential National Player of the Year, loves to drive aggressively to the basket, which could spell foul trouble for the ACC's second-best player, Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney.

If Duke is able to send him to the bench early, it could be a long night for the Hokies.

Make no mistake, though, Virginia Tech will be ready for this game. With so much at stake for the Hokies—including the possibility of their first win over a Top 25 team this season—coach Seth Greenberg will have his squad fired up and ready to take it to Duke, a team that has struggled at times playing on the road in hostile environments.

Both Duke losses this year were away from Cameron Indoor Stadium with boisterous crowds (at Florida State and in Madison Square Garden versus the red-hot Red Storm of St. John's). If the student section in Cassell can get under the skin of the Duke players and amp up their team, this game could turn into a barn-burner.

In the end, look for Nolan Smith to, once again, be the difference-maker in this game. He had an off-night earlier this week against Temple, scoring "just" 15 points. If he can turn on the afterburners, Duke will escape from this road game with a victory and solidify its lead in the ACC standings.

But if Seth Curry, Duke's second-leading three-point shooter, gets in a rhythm, it may just turn into a blowout for the Blue Devils.

Final prediction: Duke 73, Virginia Tech 67