Preview: Duke (13-2) @ Georgia Tech (11-4)

Previewing the Blue Devils and Yellow Jackets who tip off in Atlanta on Wednesday night


11 Duke (13-2, 0-1) vs. Georgia Tech (11-4, 0-2)
Atlanta, Ga. - Alexander Memorial Coliseum
7:00 p.m., ESPN

Program Vitals
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Nickname: Yellow Jackets
Colors: Gold and Blue
Head Coach:  Paul Hewitt  (7th year)
Career Record at Georgia Tech: 118-87 (184-114 Overall)

Projected Starters:
 1 Javaris Crittenton (6-5, 195, Fr.) - 13.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 6.0 apg
23 Anthony Morrow (6-5, 205, Jr.) – 7.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg 
 4 Ra'Sean Dickey (6-9, 255, Jr.) – 8.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg
33 Thaddeus Young (6-8, 215, Fr.) – 14.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg 2.1 apg
32 Jeremis Smith (6-6, 232, Jr.) – 9.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg

Key Reserves:
11 Mouhammad Faye (6-8, 190, Fr.) – 4.9 ppg, 3.5 apg
 5 Mario West (6-4, 208, Sr.) – 4.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.0 apg
44 Alade Aminu (6-9, 210, So.) – 3.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg
13 D'Andre Bell (6-5, 200, So.) – 1.1 ppg

Storylines:

How They Got Here:
Duke enters Saturday's game with a 13-2 overall record (0-1 ACC) coming off a loss to Virginia Tech in the conference opener. The loss to the Hokies snapped a nine game win streak that had helped Duke climb all the way to the nation's No. 5 ranking. Unfortunately that did little to impress Va Tech, who led for most of the game before locking down defensively on DUke in overtime and limiting the Blue Devils to just three points in the extra frame. Meanwhile the Yellow Jackets find themselves with their backs against the wall after dropping the first two ACC games to Miami and Clemson. After a tremendous early season schedule that included games against Memphis and UCLA, Tech loaded up on cupcakes for an easy five game win streak before the Tigers stopped them in Littlejon on Saturday.

Series History:
Thursday's game will be the 79th time the Hokies and Blue Devils have met with Duke holding a commanding 57-21 lead in the series. Duke has won 43 of 60 against Georgia Tech under Mike Krzyzewski in the series and 16 of 26 in Atlanta. Head coach Paul Hewitt is just 1-11 in 12 meetings with Duke. Duke has won 10 straight games in Atlanta.

Injury Report:
After battling injuries throughout the preseason schedule and up until the new year, Duke is finally 100% healthy. Though the Yellow Jackets are also relatively healthy, they are short handed with the news of sophomore scoring guard Lewis Clinch's suspension for the season due to a violation of school rule. Similarly, freshman forward Zach Peacock has also been ruled out of the game against Duke after sustaining a fractured cheekbone against Clemson.

Hewitt forced to plug and play:
With the loss of Clinch and Peacock, head coach Paul Hewitt has been forced to experiment with unproven players. The most recent example was when red-shirt freshman Mouhammad Faye became the eighth different player to start a game for the team this season on December 30. The 6-foot-10 Senegal, native has averaged 8.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in his last four games since thanks to a 7-foot-3 wingspan.

Hewitt has built plenty of depth between the returning players and the four freshmen who are playing, playing 11 players more than 10 minutes a game during Tech's recent five-game winning streak. He has shifted the focus of Tech's playing rotation to defense, giving Faye and reserve wingman D'Andre Bell more court time since the fall semester ended.

A Distinct Contrast In Styles:
The Blue Devils have won 13 of 15 games on the strength of their defense, holding opponents to an ACC best 53.4 points per game. However, Georgia Tech seems destined to test that defense in a big way on Wednesday. Tech ranks No. 2 in the ACC in scoring offense (84.4 ppg), and field goal percentage (50.9 pct.) and rank third in scoring margin (plus-28.8), fourth in three-point field goal percentage (38.5 pct.) and second in rebound margin (plus-8.6). Tech also ranks third in the ACC in assists per game (17.1) and second in offensive rebounds (14.7)..

The Turnover Battle Will Be Key:
Against the Hokies, Duke coughed it up a staggering 22 times, including six each by captains Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus (against just one assist in 18 minutes). On the flip side Duke's pressure defense did little in the way of forcing turnovers from Virginia Tech, who had just seven on the afternoon.

A big reason for that was the play of the veteran Virginia Tech backcourt. Though the Yellow Jackets don't have the same level of experience, they have been able to play at just as high, if not a higher level than the Hokies. Tech's two primary point guards, Javaris Crittenton and Mario West, combined for 44 assists and just four turnovers in the Yellow Jackets' last four games. When you factor in the atmosphere, it'll be imperative for Duke to get much improved play from the backcourt.

Avoiding The Deer In Headlights Look:
The trip to Atlanta will be the first true road game of the season for Duke. In addition, the Blue Devils will face a hostile crowd for the first time all season. Through 15 games, the Blue Devils have played 12 at home and three on neutral courts - none of which have been close to anti-Duke.

A Crucial Stretch of Games
Sitting at 0-1 in the conference, the importance of the next week's game cannot be overstated. The Blue Devils are traveling to Atlanta before heading to Miami to face the Hurricanes. In total it's two straight road trips for a team that has yet to leave the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium against two teams who have played themselves into a corner. By next Sunday Duke fans will get a better idea of where this team projects to finish in the annual ACC regular season race.

Prediction:

Duke 67
Georgia Tech 63


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