#6 Duke vs. #17 Virginia: Thursday's Preview

    
January 12th, 2012
The ACC has been assumed by many to be a conference that goes three-deep at the top with an unpredictable group beneath. But how close is the third team, #16 Virginia (14-1, 1-0), to the generally accepted top two of North Carolina and #8 Duke (13-2, 1-0)? That question will be answered tonight as the Cavaliers look for their first win at Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1995, and they've also lost the last seven games in the series. But armed with arguably the ACC's most versatile player in Mike Scott and their tough pack-line defense, the Cavaliers are capable of doing so.

Scott (16.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg) has a vast array of skills on the offensive end of the floor, shooting 59.5% from the field and a respectable 37.5% from three. His ability to score either inside or out makes him a tough matchup for many front court players, but there's also Joe Harris to take into consideration. Harris (12.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg) leads the team in minutes and also shoots well from the field, making nearly 46% of his field goal attempts. It will also be interesting to see who Harris matches up with defensively as Duke goes with a three-guard lineup.

Duke possesses an impressive amount of depth on the perimeter, with Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and Tyler Thornton being the starters. Rivers (14.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.1 apg) leads the team in scoring, and he's become more comfortable with experience. Thornton's insertion into the lineup was done in hopes of improving Duke's perimeter defense, which can be exploited by teams with the ability to break guys down off the dribble. Temple was able to get that done last week, but it may not be as easy for Virginia to do the same.

Point guard Jontel Evans (6.0 ppg, 3.5 apg) will be critical in this regard, as his job is to find the likes of Harris and Scott for quality looks. Senior guard Sammy Zeglinski (9.9 ppg, 2.7 apg) has dealt with injuries for much of his time in Charlottesville but when healthy he's one of the better shooters on the team. And freshman Malcolm Brogdon has been a solid addition to the rotation, and his role as sixth man has become more important due to the mid-year transfer of K.T. Harrell.

Duke has the Plumlee brothers, Mason and Miles, in addition to Ryan Kelly to rely on inside, with the Plumlees providing the muscle while Kelly is more of a face-up "4" who is more comfortable on the perimeter than inside. Mason's averaging 11.7 points and a team-best 9.8 rebounds while also blocking nearly two shots per contest. Miles has worked out better as a reserve in his senior campaign, and this group could prove problematic for Assane Sene and company.

But Virginia is one of the best rebounding teams in the ACC, boasting a margin of plus-8.9. A big difference between the two teams is tempo, with Duke averaging nine more possessions per game. Far more likely to get out and run, the Blue Devils will look to speed things up and if they're knocking down three-pointers early things could get away from the Cavaliers.

However, Virginia has the best three-point percentage defense in the ACC, allowing teams to shoot just 27.7% so that will be an area to watch with Duke shooting 41.7% from distance. Virginia can make quite the statement in Durham tonight, and for the first time in years they've got the ability to take advantage of the opportunity.

Out west, Gonzaga visits Saint Mary's in a matchup of the top two teams in the WCC. The Gaels, who have already beaten BYU in Moraga, have an outstanding point guard in Matthew Dellavedova and forward Rob Jones has been outstanding this season as well. Kevin Pangos hit the ground running for Gonzaga, and he's continued to improve and has to be the early favorite for WCC Rookie of the Year. Up front the Bulldogs can call on Elias Harris, Robert Sacre and Sam Dower, so it will be interesting to see who steps up to help out Jones inside for SMC.

In the Big Ten, Wisconsin visits Purdue in a game both teams need albeit for far different reasons. The Boilermakers are currently 3-1 in conference play and a win over the Badgers would keep them in the thick of the Big Ten race. Wisconsin on the other hand is 1-3, and a loss in West Lafayette would do some serious damage to their hopes of at least getting back into the top half of the Big Ten standings. Wisconsin will need more from Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren if they're to do so, and that goes for the remainder of the season as well.

There's also a big game in the CAA as Drexel, who beat VCU on Sunday night, hosts first-place George Mason. The Mason point guard play has improved in recent games but they're going to encounter a serious test in dealing with Drexel's Frantz Massenat. Massenat was outstanding against VCU, scoring 24 points in the 64-58 win.

Look for this battle, which also features the likes of Mike Morrison and Ryan Pearson for Mason and Samme Givens for Drexel, to be a rugged contest with the winning team likely being the one that better navigates foul difficulties. And Colorado visits California and Oregon State is in Tucson to take on Arizona in Pac-12 play, with the Buffaloes currently leading the conference with a 3-0 league mark.

Top 25 Games
9:00 PM (17) Virginia at (6) Duke (ESPN)
8:00 PM Minnesota at (8) Indiana (BTN)
8:00 PM Jacksonville State at (14) Murray State
9:00 PM Tennessee at (20) Mississippi State (ESPN2)
11:00 PM (23) Gonzaga at Saint Mary's(ESPN2)

NCAA Division I Games
6:00 PM James Madison at VCU (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Southern Utah at IUPUI
7:00 PM Clemson at Boston College (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Central Connecticut State at Mount St. Mary's
7:00 PM Wofford at Chattanooga
7:00 PM Binghamton at Vermont
7:00 PM Samford at Georgia Southern
7:00 PM Manhattan at Iona
7:00 PM Gardner-Webb at Coastal Carolina
7:00 PM Furman at Appalachian State (ESPN3)
7:00 PM UNC-Asheville at Campbell
7:00 PM Western Carolina at Davidson
7:00 PM UNC Wilmington at Georgia State
7:00 PM Winthrop at High Point
7:00 PM Radford at Liberty (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Fairleigh Dickinson at LIU Brooklyn
7:00 PM Idaho at Louisiana Tech (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Wisconsin at Purdue (ESPN)
7:00 PM Quinnipiac at Robert Morris
7:00 PM Rider at Siena (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Monmouth at St. Francis (NY)
7:00 PM Sacred Heart at Saint Francis (PA)
7:00 PM Bryant at Wagner
7:05 PM Elon at Citadel
7:30 PM Presbyterian at Charleston Southern
8:00 PM UNC Greensboro at Charleston (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Western Kentucky at North Texas
8:00 PM Wright State at Milwaukee (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Eastern Kentucky at Austin Peay
8:00 PM George Mason at Drexel (ESPNU)
8:00 PM Tennessee-Martin at Eastern Illinois
8:00 PM Middle Tennessee at Florida International
8:00 PM UMKC at North Dakota State
8:00 PM SIU-Edwardsville at Southeast Missouri State
8:00 PM South Dakota at South Dakota State
8:00 PM Oral Roberts at Western Illinois
8:00 PM Detroit at Green Bay
8:05 PM South Alabama at Louisiana-Lafayette
8:05 PM Crowley's Ridge College at Houston Baptist
8:30 PM Oregon State at Arizona (FSN)
8:35 PM Montana at Northern Arizona
9:00 PM Arkansas-Little Rock at Louisiana-Monroe
9:00 PM Montana State at Weber State
9:05 PM Utah State at New Mexico State (ESPN3)
9:05 PM Portland State at Northern Colorado
9:30 PM Valley City State at North Dakota
10:00 PM Utah at Stanford
10:00 PM UC Santa Barbara at UC Riverside
10:00 PM Hawaii at Fresno State
10:00 PM Cal Poly at UC Irvine
10:00 PM San Jose State at Nevada
10:00 PM Loyola Marymount at Pepperdine (ESPNU)
10:00 PM Portland at San Francisco
10:00 PM San Diego at Santa Clara
10:05 PM Eastern Washington at Sacramento State
10:05 PM UC Davis at Long Beach State
10:05 PM Pacific at Cal State Northridge
10:30 PM Oregon at Arizona State (FSN)
11:00 PM Colorado at California (CSN CA)