Preview: Duke (22-5) vs. Virginia

After starting the season in strong fashion, including a rout of Arizona, the Cavaliers fell on hard times and stumbled to a 4-12 conference mark, and the bottom seed in the ACC Tournament. Despite the low seeding, the Cavaliers showed enough grit to edge Miami by one to advance to face the Blue Devils. <i>TheDevilsDen.com</I> previews the match up and offers analysis.

Even with a poor showing this season in conference play, Virginia proved to be a tough match up for the Devils when they met in Cameron Indoor in January. There, despite a terrific effort by freshman Sean Singletary, the visitors wilted down the stretch and fell 80-66. The win was aided by J.J. Redick's 28 point performance, but it was Shelden Williams' 16 points, 11 rebounds, and nine blocks, that stole the show as Duke rallied from an early deficit to take command after halftime.

Against Miami, the Cavaliers seemed to have the game in hand before throwing the ball away with a one point lead. Despite the gift, the Hurricanes could not capitalize, and the WaHoos escaped to play another day, while improving their record to 14-14 on the season. Pete Gillen's club is playing to become eligible for the NIT, and a win against Duke could take a big step in that direction.

To avoid that fate, the Blue Devils will once again need to feed the ball inside to Williams. However, the main concern for head coach Mike Krzyzewski will be to have the game in hand early enough to steal minutes from his reserves, and allow the starters to rest. With a possible three games in three days looming, it'll be crucial for this group to put the game away early.

Meet the Cavaliers

C- Elton Brown (6'9, 250, SR) – a big body who has shown flashes of dominance throughout his first three seasons, has apparently put it all together this year. Averaging 13 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, Brown has recommitted himself to being a true post presence in the lane for Virginia. Though he still tends to float away from the basket at times, Brown knows how to use his wide frame to seal off his opponent and go to the rim with either hand.

Though foul trouble plagued him last season, it hasn't surfaced with the same severity this year, as he's only committing 2.6 fouls per game and has been DQ'ed only twice. One source of trouble has been his free throw shooting (just 54%) despite getting to the line several times per contest.

Last Time: 13 points, six rebounds in 26 minutes

Devin Smith (6'5, 240, SR) – Probably Virginia's best player, Smith has battled injuries over the last two years, and still proved to be UVa's biggest offensive threat. After surgery in the off season, Smith reported to camp at 230lbs, and looked great early on before getting banged up and then recovering earlier this year. When Jason Clark was lost, Smith slid from small forward to power forward and has battled with bigger players for much of the year.

As has been his calling card, he once again battled back from bumps and bruises while playing hurt and has averaged nearly 18 points and over six rebounds. Despite getting a high number of shots over the past month, his shooting percentage has take a slight dive and fatigue and different responsibilities have taken their toll.

Last Time: Eight points, eight rebounds in 25 minutes.

G- J.R. Reynolds (6'3, 195, SO) – Last year Reynolds made his name against Duke, hitting from the perimeter in the Cavaliers' loss at Cameron. That game was a microcosm of the rest of his season, and to a bigger extent, his career to date. Reynolds is a big guard with a nice stroke from three point land, but who is quick enough to drive to the basket against bigger defenders. He does, at times struggle on both the defensive end and with shot selection. This year his perimeter shot has taken a small step back (down to 33%), and he's shooting less than 35% from the floor while having the second highest number of attempts on the team. Still, he's third on the team in scoring at 10 points per game, and is the team's best free throw shooter at 83%.

Last Time: Three points, one rebound in 36 minutes.

T.J. Bannister (5'11, 170, SO) -- Played well in spots at the point last season, but has been moved to the second team with the emergence of Singletary. Bannister, like many of his teammates, has had trouble shooting this season (18% from 3), but is a capable ball handler and can help the Cavaliers break pressure. He moved to the starting lineup when Clark went down and has upped his scoring average to nearly five points per game while handing out just under four assists per contest against just two turnovers.

Last Time: Four points, three assists, one turnover in 16 minutes.

Sean Singletary (5'11, 175, FR) – Last year's group of Cavaliers never had a true point guard as Majestic Mapp finally gave up on his basketball career, and Reynolds filled in with spot duty. This year Philadelphia native Singletary was a highly rated recruit, and has stepped in well for UVa in the early going. As he continues to become more and more comfortable running the offense, his numbers have improved steadily.

His best game of his young career came against Auburn when he lit the Tigers up for 25 points, five assists, and seven rebounds. However, he struggled against the league's best point guards, but gained more and more confidence as the season went along. Despite defensive troubles, he managed to take care of the ball with veteran-like poise, maintaining a 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio against the All American candidates.

On the season Singletary is averaging 10.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per contest.

Last Time: 19 points, two assists in 36 minutes.

The Reserves:

One thing the Cavaliers have is quality depth. Backing up the starting five are a trio if capable reserves led by sophomore swingman Gary Forbes (6'6, 210), an athletic combo wing who has struggled with his perimeter jumpshot (18%) this year, but has improved his slashing ability and uses his big frame to get to the rim where he can finish with either hand. After Forbes comes Trinidad native Adrian Joseph (6'7, 200, FR), a tremendously athletic big forward, albeit quite raw in terms of skills. Other reserves of note include backup freshman big man Donte Miller (6'8, 244) and Jason Cain (6'9, 205).


Game Notes:
courtesy of Duke Sports Information

- Duke has won five of the past six ACC Tournament championships and has advanced to the Championship Game for seven consecutive seasons.

- Duke's J.J. Redick (first team), Shelden Williams (first) and Daniel Ewing (third) were each named All-ACC. Duke has now had at least two first team All-ACC honorees in six of the past eight seasons

- Williams was selected as the league's Defensive Player of the Year and DeMarcus Nelson was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team

- Duke's defense has allowed its last four opponents to average 59.3 points per game

*- Under Mike Krzyzewski, Duke is 41-15 vs. Virginia.

Prediction:

Duke-83
Virginia -70


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