After losing their no. 1 ranking, the no. 3 Duke Blue Devils will try to add another to the win column Tuesday night when they visit the no. 20 Virginia Tech Hokies. On the road, the Blue Devils are favored by 4.5 points.
The Hokies are likely out of the running for the ACC title, but they have a good chance to earn a double-bye in the conference tournament. With three wins in their last four games, Virginia Tech is 10-5 in ACC play, putting them in 4th place. With just three games left to play, they have a chance to solidify that spot ahead of the ACC Tournament. The Hokies would also love a marquee win or two down the stretch to help their seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Blue Devils, meanwhile, were quick to rebound from last week’s loss to North Carolina with a road win at Syracuse over the weekend. However, that loss brought them into a three-way tie with Virginia and UNC at 12-2 in ACC play. Winning their four remaining games may be the only way to guarantee they win the ACC regular season title.
Much like the game against Syracuse, the Blue Devils will be without Zion Williamson against Virginia Tech. Duke couldn’t adjust mid-game when Williamson was lost against North Carolina, but they did a good job of getting by without him against Syracuse, despite trailing at halftime. Of course, part of that adjustment was R.J. Barrett scoring 30 points. With Barrett already averaging better than 23 points per game, that can’t be Duke’s only answer to playing without Williamson.
The saving grace for the Blue Devils against Syracuse was sophomore sharpshoot Alex O’Connell, who poured in 20 points, including five made 3’s. But Duke may not be able to rely on him for that kind of performance two games in a row. The Blue Devils will need fellow freshman phenom Cam Reddish to step up while Williamson is out. He had just five points against Syracuse despite 27 points in the loss to UNC, so he needs to be more reliable.
Still Not Back
Meanwhile, the Hokies are dealing with an absent star of their own. Senior point guard Justin Robinson has now missed the last seven games with a foot injury. There is no clear timeline for his return, and he will certainly miss Tuesday’s game against Duke. Virginia Tech has gone 4-3 without him, although most of those wins have come against teams at the bottom of the ACC standings. The Hokies have struggled to measure up to quality teams without Robinson.
Without Robinson, Kerry Blackshear Jr. has stepped up, averaging over 21 points over his last six games. He could present Duke with some challenges inside without Williamson’s big body clogging the paint. However, Tech’s outside shooting has been spotty without Robinson to make shots and distribute the ball. On the season, the Hokies are shooting 40% from three-point range, but they’ve been below that mark in five of their last seven games.
Same Old Duke
While Williamson is the better player, Robinson’s absence from Virginia Tech is more meaningful for his team. The Hokies aren’t the same without Robinson, and their recent results back that up. With a manageable spread, bet on Duke to win and cover 4.5 points at Virginia Tech on Tuesday.