Duke-Virginia Preview (Feb 15, 2017)
With just a handful of ACC games left before postseason play, Wednesday night's matchup between No. 12 Duke and No. 14 Virginia will come with a bevy of storylines and opportunities.
The Blue Devils have reeled off five straight victories, including a win over bitter rival North Carolina last week, after it looked as though Duke was trending downward after losing three of four games.
With coach Mike Krzyzewski recovered and back on the sideline after back surgery, the Blue Devils find themselves tied for second in the ACC with an 8-4 conference record.
Virginia enters the game tied with Duke, also with an 8-4 ACC record after a somewhat bazaar week last week. The Cavaliers knocked off fourth-ranked Louisville in Charlottesville, Va., before going on the road and losing in double overtime to in-state rival Virginia Tech 80-78.
"It was a hard-fought game," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of the loss to Virginia Tech. "You have to be real good to come away with wins in this league be it home or away."
The loss to the Hokies on Sunday night dropped the Cavaliers two spots in the latest AP poll. Duke climbed six spots after its 2-0 week.
Duke guard Luke Kennard enters the game averaging 20 points and five rebounds for the season.
Kennard's ability to make outside shots along with the ability to get into the paint could provide a challenge for a Virginia team that struggled against Virginia Tech's dribble penetration.
"Luke has always been a guy who carries his team no matter what sport he plays," Krzyzewski said of his sophomore guard. "He's accustomed to having the ball in his hands in pressure situations. He's a high-percentage player who is about more than shooting. He's a very good passer as well and I'm very pleased with the year he's had."
Virginia guard London Perrantes is coming off of a 22-point performance against the Hokies but had to take a career-high 22 shots to reach that mark.
Perrantes will need to continue to pace the Cavaliers from the point position against a Blue Devils team who will be keying on the senior.
"He's like an old-school ACC guy who gets better every year," Krzyzewski said of Perrantes. "He's always been good, but he's an exceptional player now and an exceptional leader."
Duke has beaten Virginia in three consecutive regular-season matchups, including a 63-62 nail-biter last season in Durham.
Look for this one to be another classic as both teams continue to chase North Carolina at the top of the ACC standings.