DUKE BLUE DEVILS (22-3)
at VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (17-7)
Cassell Coliseum - Blacksburg, VA
Tip-off: Thursday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: Duke -12.5, Total: 146.5
After a tough loss at Maryland on Saturday, No. 6 Duke looks to get back on track Thursday with a visit to reeling Virginia Tech.
The Blue Devils saw their six-game win streak snapped in College Park, and now they are trying to end a three-game ATS skid. The Hokies have lost eight straight games, but the offense was much more efficient in Saturday's narrow, four-point overtime loss at 14-point favorite NC State, scoring 86 points. Duke has won eight of the past nine meetings SU between these schools, but Virginia Tech has covered two straight, losing by five points in overtime at Duke and then by only four points in an ACC Tournament defeat.
Can Duke cover the huge number on the road? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The experts will try to build on a strong 10-7 ATS (59%) collective mark in Best Bets over the past two days. StatFox Scott is 59% ATS (17-12) on college hoops Best Bets since Feb. 8, while StatFox Gary is 55% ATS (84-70-3) for Best Bets this season. StatFox Dave is 4-1 ATS in the past two days and is 52.3% ATS (139-127-5) for the season. StatFox Brian has been 50% ATS or better in eight of the past 11 days.
Duke has scored 78.1 PPG this season, the 11th-highest total in the nation. The Blue Devils also shoot 47.2% from the floor, including 40.4% from three-point range (7th-best in nation). They dish out 15.2 APG with a solid 1.36 Ast/TO ratio. Duke's only real weakness is on the glass, where the team has been outrebounded this season (minus-0.9 RPG). Since PF Ryan Kelly (13.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG) went down with a foot injury, the Blue Devils have a minus-3.3 RPG margin. PF Mason Plumlee (17.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG) is one of the better big men in the country, recording 14 double-doubles and making 60% of his shots this season. But he had a horrible game on Saturday, recording a season-low four points (2-of-7 FG) and three rebounds before fouling out. Last season, Plumlee scored 10 points with six rebounds in Blacksburg and tallied a double-double (12 pts, 10 reb) in the ACC Tournament win over the Hokies. SG Seth Curry (16.9 PPG) is an impressive shooter at 46% FG, 42% threes and 82% from the foul line. He kept his team in the game Saturday with 25 points on 11-of-17 FG (3-of-7 threes), marking his seventh straight game of scoring at least 11 points, averaging 19.3 PPG during this streak. But he hasn't found the rims to be kind at Virginia Tech, where he's made just 2-of-9 shots in his career. PG Quinn Cook (12.3 PPG, 5.8 APG, 4.0 RPG) does an outstanding job running this offense with a stellar 2.39 Ast/TO ratio this season. He's also taken on a greater scoring load this month with 16.8 PPG in the five games. Speaking of scoring, freshman SG Rasheed Sulaimon (11.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG) has also contributed more offensively recently, with 11+ points in seven of his past nine games, averaging 13.3 PPG over this span. He's also 14-for-14 from the charity stripe in his past four games.
Virginia Tech likes to play at a fast pace with 71.4 PPG, but shoots a subpar 42.0% FG and 32.5% threes. And by playing this style, the Hokies give up a ton of points (73.7 PPG) and have a minus-1.1 turnover margin. Senior SG Erick Green continues to lead the nation in scoring at 25.3 PPG, as he has poured in at least 20 points in all but two of his 25 games this season. In the past four contests, he's scored 27.0 PPG, thanks in big part to his 31-of-39 free throws (79%) in this span. If he can continue to penetrate and cause some foul trouble against a Duke team with a thin bench, Virginia Tech will be in great shape to keep this game close. He made just 10-of-35 shots in the two close losses to the Blue Devils last season, but was able to get to the rim and convert 9-for-9 free throws in the conference tourney loss. The Hokies are hoping junior SF Jarell Eddie (13.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG) is officially over his horrible three-game slump from Feb. 7-12 when he scored a total of five points on 2-of-21 FG. But he played much better in Saturday's loss to NC State with 17 points (7-of-13 FG) in just 22 minutes of action. Freshman PF Marshall Wood (4.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG) is also looking to build upon his great performance on Saturday when he tallied 14 points and 16 rebounds against the Wolfpack. Wood and junior PF Cadarian Raines (7.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG) will be tasked with containing Plumlee down low, but Raines has been tough inside over his past five games with 8.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 2.0 BPG.