Despite a close call against UCF in the Round of 32, the #1 Duke Blue Devils (26-5) opened as massive 8-point favorites against the #4 Virginia Tech Hokies (23-7) in their Sweet 16 matchup at Capital One Arena on Sunday (Mar. 29th). Virginia Tech’s upset bid will get underway at 9:39 pm ET.
Virginia Tech Hokies Preview
The Hokies haven’t had to play the toughest of competition in the first two rounds, but have looked pretty impressive nonetheless. They cruised past #13 Saint Louis (66-52) in a game they led by 22 at the break. That was followed by a 67-58 win over upset-minded Liberty, a #12 seed that squeaked past #5 Mississippi State in the first round.
The Hokies trailed Liberty by as many as five in the second half, but roared back around the 15:00 minute mark with a 16-3 run to extinguish the Flames for good.
The best news for coach Buzz Williams coming out of the first two rounds is that star guard Justin Robinson has looked solid in his return from a left foot injury. He hasn’t started either game, but has played a total of 57 minutes off the bench, scoring 22 points on 7/16 shooting from the field.
His presence has forced opposing defenses to spread out their resources, opening up more shots for Tech’s other two offensive leaders: Kerry Blackshear (19 points vs Liberty) and Alexander Nickeil-Walker (20 points versus Saint Louis).
Virginia Tech’s defense has been good all year, but was absolutely smothering in the first two rounds, giving up just 110 points combined and holding both opponents under 39% from the floor.
It will need to be every bit as effective on Sunday because …
Duke Blue Devils Preview
… the Hokies will be facing a Duke team that is dynamic at the offensive end, ranked 7th in offensive efficiency, despite playing a large chunk of games without Zion Williamson, the most efficient offensive player in the nation.
The Blue Devils are averaging 84 points a night, 8th in the country, even though they connect at a brutal 31-percent from three (337th) and 69-percent from the free-throw line (255th). Williamson’s efficiency on the interior has their two-point field-goal percentage at 57.9% (4th in the nation).
The Blue Devils pair their potent offense with an imposing D, one which sits 6th in defensive rating and is allowing just 67 PPG at the moment, even though this team plays at a blistering tempo (4th fastest).
This is a team that can beat you in multiple ways.
Zion obviously has a solid supporting cast, at least in fellow freshman RJ Barrett, who actually leads the team in scoring, averaging 23 PPG.
Williamson’s efforts on the glass (9 rebounds per game) have helped Duke dominate that aspect. As a team, they rank 2nd in rebounds, with 40 rebounds a night. They are 14th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (35.6%).
The Blue Devils barely survived the Round of 32, needing an improbable last-minute comeback to edge out #9 Central Florida, 77-76. Zion was all-world, dropping 32 points in the win, though he did struggle a lot more than usual in the post against UCF’s 7’6 center Tacko Fall.
But survive they did, and now they get a chance to avenge one of their five losses on the year against the Hokies, who beat Duke 77-72 in Blacksburg in late February. Williamson missed that contest with the knee injury he suffered against UNC the week prior.
Against the spread, these teams have been remarkably similar this year. Duke has gone 18-17-1 ATS, while Virginia Tech is a solid 17-15-1 ATS, itself.
Get the complete slate of odds, the line movement, and the over/under prediction for Virginia Tech vs Duke in the tables above. As always, good luck with your wagers.