This week we take a look at a battle in the ACC between two of the top three teams in the nation. On Saturday, February 9, the Duke Blue Devils defeated the Virginia Cavaliers 81-71 in Charlottesville.
On the same day that the NCAA selection committee named Duke as their #1 overall seed in their current tournament rankings (Virginia came in as the third #1 seed), the Blue Devils earned a monster road win to further enhance their impressive resume. In the first meeting between these two ACC powerhouses, the Blue Devils edged the Cavaliers at home 72-70. This game was not as close as the first, as a dominant performance by Duke right out of the gate pushed them to a 10-point road win.
This game featured an interesting clash in offensive styles, as Duke ranks 12th in the nation in average possession length and 20th in adjusted tempo. Virginia, on the other hand, ranks 351st (out of 353 teams) in average possession length and dead last in adjusted tempo. Despite the opposing styles, these two teams both rank very highly in KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. The Blue Devils come in at 2nd on the offensive side and 5th on the defensive side, while the Cavaliers rank 5th on the offensive side and 3rd on the defensive side.
A major factor in Duke’s win was their ability to knock down perimeter shots, both contested and uncontested. The Blue Devils shot the lights out, making 26 of their 45 shots from the field (57.8%) and an incredible 13 of their 21 shots from three (61.9%). This performance was certainly surprising, as their three-point shooting had been viewed as one of their few weaknesses—on the year, they rank 283rd in the nation at 32%. Virginia had a solid offensive performance in their own right (46.7% from the field and 41.7% from three) but had little chance to keep up with Duke’s high-scoring offense.
The Blue Devils distributed the ball well in this one, finishing with 18 assists. Freshman point guard Tre Jones led the team with seven assists, with four going to freshman wing RJ Barrett, two going to freshman wing Cam Reddish, and the final one going to junior forward Jack White. Star freshman forward Zion Williamson contributed with five assists, with two each going to Barrett and Reddish, and the last one going to junior center Marques Bolden. Barrett and Reddish also distributed three assists each.
Both Duke and Virginia currently have two losses, as Duke lost two close ones to Gonzaga and Syracuse, while Virginia dropped both of its contests to Duke. After this game, the Blue Devils jumped the Cavaliers for KenPom’s #1 team, while Virginia currently stands at #3. With a grueling ACC schedule ahead for both teams, there should be many more exciting games and great challenges.