A clash between two of the top teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference takes place on Tuesday night as the No. 19 Duke Blue Devils travel to Blacksburg, Va., to take on the No. 20 Virginia Tech Hokies. Coming off three consecutive wins, this is a chance for Duke to keep building momentum and separate itself in the ACC standings.
On the other side, Virginia Tech is coming off a bounce-back win over Notre Dame after a loss to Louisville.
Searching For Identity
Duke is 5-2 this season, but don’t let the record fool you. This has been a roller-coaster of a season for Blue Devils, who have had six games either postponed or canceled due to COVID-19.
With wins over Notre Dame, Boston College, and Wake Forest, there are a couple of ways of looking at their current win streak. One obvious is the play of sophomore forward Matt Hurt, who is averaging 19.6 points per game, 8.1 rebounds on 53.5% shooting from the field.
Hurt is getting some help from ACC Freshman of the Week DJ Steward, but Duke lacks that third option and is still searching for its identity.
Duke is going to have to continue to defend well and force the Hokies into mistakes if it wants a big win on the road. The Blue Devils currently rank in the top 60 in the country in generating turnovers at 15.7. One of the best ways to instill confidence in a team is turning takeaways into easy buckets.
Freshman forward and potential lottery pick Jalen Johnson has been cleared for basketball activity since being sidelined in the middle of December with a foot injury. Johnson had a workout on Sunday in limited minutes, and
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski stated he will travel with the team and be in uniform against Virginia Tech.
Krzyzewski is not sure he is going to play him as of now, and Duke will utilize its layoff after this game to get him back into game shape and well-conditioned. Whether he plays or not, this is big news for Duke because the team’s most skilled player is nearing a return to the court.
When there is a chance for a team to get to play Duke and knock it off, you better be ready to answer the bell. The Hokies are ready to go head-to-head with a Duke team lacking experience and star talent like years past.
What better way to put the Louisville loss in the rearview than knocking off Duke and jumping it in the conference standings?
Virginia Tech is going to need all it can get from its offensive stars, Keve Aluma and Jalen Cone, who is the second-leading scorer on the team in a sixth-man role. Duke has been vulnerable from the three-point line this season, allowing teams to shoot 37.1 percent. The Hokies come into this meeting with three players who average around 37 percent from three on the year.
Defensively, the Hokies are going to have to do all they can to keep Hurt from hurting them in this game. His versatility is enough to hurt the Hokies in more ways than just scoring the ball.
Aluma is going to have his hands full trying to carry an offensive load and keep Hurt under control throughout the game.
Duke at Virginia Tech Betting Lines & Odds
Duke is a 1.5-point road favorite. Despite the lack of fans Tuesday night, this should be a tight contest and a big win for the Blue Devils to add to their resume.
It’s been a whirlwind of a season for Duke due to COVID-19 and its offensive struggles all around. Duke’s only two losses of the season have come to teams that were ranked in the top 10 in the first three games.
This is going to be an up-and-down and very competitive game from the tip. Virginia Tech is going to have to keep its bigs out of trouble while defending Hurt.
If Johnson is ready to go, even in limited fashion (20 to 25 minutes), I like Duke in this one. The Blue Devils need a top-tier win against a Top 25 opponent.
Free Betting Pick: Duke -1.5
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