day 1/23 || time 7:00 || Place Cassel Coliseum || Video ESPN
Duke travels to Blacksburg, coming off a big win over Miami, and follows Mike Young’s Virginia Tech hockey team. They have lost seven straight games but don’t let that fool you. This is a very dangerous group.
Virginia Tech lost senior catcher Cator early in the losing streak, but Young said their problem goes beyond that.
The team returns Cator, Justin Mutts, Darius Maddox and Sean Pedula from last year’s team.
Not back: Hurricane Murphy, Kev Alev and Nahaim Alleyne.
For our purposes, Alley doesn’t count because he’s so inconsistent. Murphy and Alma were nothing.
Aluma was a quality big man who averaged 15.8 ppg, 6.5 boards and 1.9 assists. He can shoot from anywhere and is shooting 53.8 percent overall and 33.3 on threes, which is basically a bust. and gave fits to the Duke.
Although only 6-0, Murphy was a solid point guard who led the team and dominated a game. He was truly amazing.
He was replaced by Sen Pedula, who held his own for sure.
He was very hard to replace.
His replacement is Grant Basile, who transferred from Wright State.
Basile did well, but in a perfect world, he would have played forward and someone else, say Alev, would have manned the post.
We didn’t watch every Hokies game, but Basile had some great games. He opened with 30 points in the season opener against Delaware State. He had 23 at Dayton and 26 at Syracuse.
But you may notice a pattern. Except for Sirac, he doesn’t do that much against quality big men. So he had 12 points and four rebounds when the Hokies faced UNC and Armando Bacot. Against Clemson, he had 17 points the first time and 13 points the second time.
And while Virginia Tech faces pretty good defensive teams, its stats suffer as well. So Wake Forest has nine, NC State has four and Virginia has 12.
Of course, Basile isn’t the only one going 1-for-5. Obviously he can’t do much if his teammates can’t get the ball. But still, it can’t do the things Aleve can.
Pedula stepped in and did a solid job overall. In addition to leading Va Tech in scoring with 15.9, he is averaging 4.2 apg and, impressively for a 6-1 guard, is close to 4 rpg.
Mutts is a kind of Swiss Army Knife of real value. He can do many things. But generally speaking, he’s a guy you want to put around guys who can do the heavy lifting. Then he can do whatever needs to be done. He’s really valuable, but not someone you want on your team.
Kator is a very smart player and effective. He doesn’t spend much time looking around; He makes a move or clears the ball and keeps moving. And he can shoot. Considering how close most of the recent losses have been, you can imagine it will make a big difference (he only came back for two games).
Darius Maddox was impressive at spots last season. We thought he would be ready for a big improvement. He is getting twice as many minutes, but the measured results are slightly improved.
Freshman Michael Collins is solid in the rotation but doesn’t have a huge statistical impact (of course you can’t measure everything statistically).
Lynn Kidd, a 6-10 junior, has had his moments, but he clearly isn’t the answer. If he was, he’d be getting more minutes (he’s currently pulling 13.7).
And finally, freshman Rodney Rice was supposed to be the reason, but he missed all but one game and got hurt again. It is a good candidate for a red dress.
Young had more to say about the team’s struggles. Recognized as an accomplished offensive coach, Young’s team is eighth overall in ACC offense this year (Duke is ninth, incidentally). Virginia Tech is seventh in free throw percentage (Duke is second.) And given Young’s three-point happy offense, you’d expect the Hokies to shoot well, but they’re ninth. Duke is 12th but second in three-point defense.
There’s a huge gap in rebounding – Duke gets 13.84 offensive boards per game, which is first in the conference, and these teams are basically washed out in defensive rebounding at 26.63 for the Hokies and 26.16 for the Blue Devils.
Duke’s interior strength will be a big challenge for Virginia Tech, and as we’ve seen before, the guard game has come along nicely in Roach’s absence. Tyrese Proctor has grown a lot and while Derrick Whitehead has shown some nice flashes, he has yet to produce a dominant game. But he wants attention, which at least makes life easier for other men. And this game is an opportunity for Ryan Young and Derek Lively, as Virginia Tech’s interior defense is a bit suspect.
So a lot of things could line up well for the Blues in this game. It’s still not a sure thing.
Well, several reasons.
First, despite their struggles, Virginia Tech has some solid talent and experience. And at this point, no one doubts that Mike Young is a quality coach. And Cassell Coliseum, especially for big games, is as good a home court advantage as any place in the ACC.
And as we have seen this season, young people can work on Duke. If the Blue Devils had closed out the game well and, despite winning, not scored a basket against Miami in the final five minutes, they could have won at Clemson.
Duke finally got Jeremy Roach back to Miami, and that was huge. The Blue Devils haven’t scored a basketball in their last 5 games, but Roach pushed Nigel Puck with :13 left, which is the kind of clutch play you want to see from your leader.
Playing in a place as loud and brutal as Cassel — maybe call it Littlejohn North, really — isn’t easy for experienced teams. For a young team like Duke, Victory will be a big step forward.