UVa Must Deal With Duke Next

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Can Tony Bennett’s team pull off an upset?

Maybe it is because they have a lot of star power or because they play a winning brand of basketball. Maybe it is because they’re the team everyone loves to hate. Maybe it’s because everyone loves to throw a few barbs the way of the coach. Whatever it is, when the Duke Blue Devils come to town, fans are excited about the arrival.

This Wednesday, it’s Virginia’s turn to see the Blue Devils as they bring a 23-2 record and 10-1 ACC mark to Charlottesville. Defeating Duke, of course, is never an easy task so UVa (12-12, 3-7 ACC) has its work cut out for it in this mid-week showdown. After all, coach Mike Krzyzewski brings the league’s top-scoring team to town with a hefty 84.3 points per game average; the Devils also lead the ACC in shooting percentage (47.5%) and 3-point shooting percentage (39.2%). That could spell trouble for coach Tony Bennett’s club, which has struggled with defensive consistency this season in the Pack-Line system; Virginia ranks 9th in the ACC in field goal percentage defense (44.0% allowed) and 11th in 3-point field goal percentage defense (37.2% allowed).

The Blue Devils have several players to thank for that offensive success, particularly from behind the 3-point line where numerous options can stretch the defense. Nolan Smith , Kyle Singler, Andre Dawkins, and Seth Curry have all made at least 40 triples on the season; all four shoot at 36.4% or better. Dawkins hit three key 3-pointers in Duke’s January win (76-60). Smith, meanwhile, enters this week’s games as the ACC Player of the Week, the second time this season he’s earned that honor. Smith averaged 26.0 points and 4.0 assists in wins against UNC and Miami last week; he made 5 of 10 shots from downtown.

With all of that in mind, there are three key areas that I’m keeping an eye on in this match-up and the Hoos will need to be competitive or win all three categories to have a chance to pull off the upset.

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