How Not to Beat Duke: What Virginia Tech Did Thursday NightPosted by Jimmy Kelley on February 22nd, 2013
Jimmy Kelley is an ACC correspondent for Rush the Court. Follow him on Twitter @DevilsInDurham.
Virginia Tech is one of the most infuriating teams to watch in the ACC. When your best player is the nation’s leading scorer the list of other things that need to go right in any given game to get a win is actually pretty short. It starts with playing good enough defense so that the game doesn’t reach the 70s. If that can be accomplished, the rest of the team — nine players playing 10+ minutes per game — need to score a total of somewhere around 40 points. On Thursday night, the Hokies did neither and actually played so poorly on defense that they posted the blueprint of exactly how not to approach an upset bid against Duke.
The odds of Thursday’s contest being close were pretty poor to begin with, but with the way they played defense and let the Blue Devils impose their will early and often sent that possibility completely out the window. NC State and Miami created the blueprint of how to beat Duke this season and although the Hokies don’t have the personnel to execute that type of game plan, they at least could have tried to make life difficult for Duke. The Blue Devils made eight of their nine three-point attempts in the first half and let Seth Curry get hot from deep. Mason Plumlee is the crux of Duke’s attack and stopping him should be every team’s first priority, but any positive work a team gets down low against Plumlee can be rendered completely useless if Curry is allowed to do what he did on Thursday. When Curry is working it not only opens up the drive-and-kick game to the weak side, but forces more defensive rotation and leaves Plumlee plenty of space to work inside. Everything starts at the arc for Duke and if they are hot from deep, few teams have a chance of beating them.
If defending the arc is priority number one, a close second is getting on the offensive boards for multiple shots on every possession. Richard Howell almost single-handedly beat Duke himself in Raleigh by grabbing 18 rebounds, eight of them offensive, and getting second-chance baskets on three of NCSU’s first six possessions in the second half. Virginia Tech put up an offensive rebound rate of 23.3 percent (seven offensive rebounds on 29 reboundable misses) which is nearly 10 percent lower than the number NC State grabbed when they upset Duke back on January 12. The Hokies managed just four second-chance points for the entire game (NCSU had 16) and allowed 12 to the Blue Devils. Duke is too good to beat with just one shot every possession and the Hokies found that out the hard way.
With Ryan Kelly’s return looking like more of a possibility each passing day this game plan may not work when the games start to really count next month. But until then, every team that is looking to pull off an upset against Duke should take a look at the Virginia Tech tape as a how-to on what not to do in trying to beat the Blue Devils.