Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
It’s game day for Virginia Tech men’s basketball.
The Hokies endure a quick turnaround this evening, having just played Sunday night. The Duke Blue Devils will come to Blacksburg this evening for a top-20 match-up. Duke hopes to finally get in a rhythm after inconsistently being unable to play to start the season.
Head coach Mike Young and his troops will look to halt that Duke momentum. Virginia Tech aims for a huge home win at Cassell Coliseum, attempting to continue to prove itself as a perennial contender in the ACC.
Game Day Information
When: Tuesday, Jan. 12, 7 p.m. ET
Where: Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, VA
TV: ACC Network
PXP: Dave O´Brien
Analyst: Cory Alexander
Series History: Duke Leads 49-11
Last Meeting: Duke Won 88-64 on Feb. 22, 2020
Line: Duke -1.5
Stone By Stone
That’s the slogan Young and his staff have lived by ever since they’ve arrived in Blacksburg.
Here we are two years later, and that stone tower is getting pretty tall. Young mentioned it after the Notre Dame win, but this is one of those games you’d love to have the “Cassell Guard” in full force. Duke’s mere presence should bring about a raucous crowd.
A top-20 showdown between the 20th-ranked Hokies, and 19th-ranked Blue Devils will always certainly sell out Cassell Coliseum. Unfortunately for this year, the Hokies will have to bring their own energy yet again. But don’t tell them that’s not a good thing.
This Virginia Tech team has fun, is always jumping around, and is just enjoying playing basketball. A perfect example of that was Sunday night when the Hokies took care of business against a down Notre Dame team, 77-63.
Hot Strokes Across The Board
Jalen Cone is still so much on fire that if you poured a bucket of water of him, he’d still be sizzling. He led all scorers with 18 points against Notre Dame. Hunter Cattoor had one of his better games of the year with 15 points, tying teammate Keve Aluma, who added 12 rebounds.
Let’s not forget Justyn Mutts either. The Delaware transfer had his best game in a Virginia Tech uniform, putting up 14 points. Mutts saw increased minutes, due in part to Nate Laszewski’s foul troubles.
Those are all great for sure, but most encouraging heading into Tuesday’s game is the play of Aluma. Sure, he’s had those types of games all year, but he responded after a tough game at Louisville. How he fares tonight on both ends of the ball could make or break the Hokies.
Dinner With The Devils
Another note on Cassell Coliseum — it has not been kind to the Blue Devils recently. Duke secured its first win in Blacksburg last season since 2015, and other than a 2018 win where Chris Clarke hit a go-ahead tip-in with less than five seconds left, those games hadn’t really been that close.
Duke has had some trouble with opponents being able to play. The Blue Devils themselves cancelled the remainder of their non-conference contests. Legendary head coach Mike Kryzeiwski even missed a game recently to adhere to ACC COVID-19 protocols.
But they’re back in full swing now, and while Duke may not have the guard play like it has had in the past with Tre Jones, it possesses an interior threat that could be a problem for the Hokies.
Matthew Hurt, the ACC’s leading scorer who averages 19.6 points and 8.1 rebounds, will be the name to circle for Virginia Tech. That match-up with Aluma will be crucial. Aluma will need to have a stout defensive game and finish strong at the rim for the Hokies to win.
DJ Steward also averages 14 points up top for Duke.
The Aluma-Hurt match-up will be the deciding factor in this game. Virginia Tech can shoot Duke out of the building, but it’ll be all for naught if the Hokies can’t stop Hurt.
Duke is favored in this game due to brand name. We’re going to pick the Blue Devils just because we lean towards going with experience down low in the ACC. Aluma struggled enough against Louisville’s big men to give us all we needed to see to go with the Blue Devils in a thriller in Blacksburg.
Prediction: (19) Duke 66, (20) Virginia Tech 65
Following tonight’s game, the Hokies will enjoy a couple days off before making the trek down to Winston-Salem Sunday to face off against former Hokie Isaiah Wilkins and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
The game will be at 6 p.m. ET and will be televised on the ACC Network.