Both Virginia Tech and Duke lost over the weekend, and that's about where their similarities end. Duke is really good, and Virginia Tech...eh...not so much. The Hokies are trying to end their 8-game losing streak, while the Blue Devils are trying to weather the storm while Ryan Kelly is out, and catch Miami atop the ACC standings.
The top two guys in the race for ACC Player of the Year, Erick Green and Mason Plumlee, (you could easily argue Shane Larkin of Miami too) will face off tonight. Each is having an impressive year, with Erick leading the nation in scoring, and Mason averaging a double-double. If the Hokies want to win, stopping Plumlee will be the top priority.
The senior forward [Plumlee] ranks second in the ACC in both scoring (17.6 ppg) and rebounding (10.4 rpg). He is averaging 6.5 points more than he did last season, and his rebounding average has also increased.
Others might be surprised by how much he has blossomed, but he is not among them.
"I did see it coming," Plumlee said Tuesday in a phone interview. "To have the kind of year that I want to have, and I want to be even better going forward, you have to see it before you do it. So when I would think about it over the summer and in the preseason, I saw myself doing certain things on the court and putting up particular numbers."
In Dukes loss at Maryland Saturday (81-83) Mason only had 4 points, and took the blame.
... The big man, who entered the game as a serious national player of the year candidate, scored four points — all in the first half — and pulled down just three rebounds in 33 minutes. He also had two assists and two turnovers along with five second-half fouls.
"I didn't show up to play today and I let my teammates down," Plumlee said Saturday, sitting a few feet from Cook. "That's not how I've played all season. I hope it doesn't happen again. It's all on me."
Cadarian Raines has a tough task ahead, but is up to the challenge. He has faced many talented big men this year, including Alex Len and Reggie Johnson, and fared well against them. If he can hold Plumlee to around 10 points and 7 rebounds, I'd even call that a success.
What makes Green's season all the more impressive is that Johnson believes his star is still playing "with point guard instincts" and would be averaging more than 4.1 assists if his teammates were playing better.
The statistics bear that out. Green is on track to average the fewest shots per game (17.5) by the country's leading scorer since Kevin Granger of Texas Southern in 1995-96. And yet he has been held to fewer than 20 points just twice.
|PLAYER||PTS||PTS / FGA||PTS||PTS / FGA|
|Joey van Zegeren||89||1.46||37||1.32|
This isn't a shock either:
Effort equals success, and Erick has given more than enough.
It's always interesting when Seth Curry comes to town. There's a little tension in the air (okay, a lot of tension), and it's even worse because both Dell and Sonja Curry are in the stands. In his two stops in Blacksburg, he has performed poorly, with zero and 11 points on a combined 2-9 shooting. We can hope the trend continues and he scores less than his average of 16.88 ppg. Like his father, he is excellent from deep, making 41.9% of his looks, which ranks 30th in the nation.
As of yesterday, James Johnson still hadn't decided if Jarell Eddie or Will Johnston would start. Eddie shot the ball well against NC State, and obviously has more physical tools, but Coach Johnson thinks Will is still outplaying him.
The newest item Cassell Guard will be giving out is neon orange shirts. I think they look awesome, considering they're free. To me, they don't appear to be neon, but if they are it will be cool to see the student section light up when it's filled.
I'm not quite sure what to expect with regards to the crowd tonight. Against UVa it was a great crowd, against #14 Miami, the crowd absolutely sucked, and against Maryland, it was "meh." I think everyone will come simply because it's Duke, and we'll have an excellent atmosphere in Cassell.
Charts and Graphs:
Keys to the game:
- Supporting cast for Erick Green
- Slow down Mason Plumlee
- Defend the three-point line
It's a 9 p.m. tip and magical things happen inside Cassell at night. The Hokies have a tendency to perform well against Duke, albeit under a different coach, and I think both Cadarian Raines and Joey van Zegeren will limit Mason Plumlee. Call me optimistic (extremely optimistic), but I say the Hokies end their losing streak with a win over #6 Duke, 62-60.