By the (Advanced) Numbers: Strength-on-Strength Against Duke

The Hokies host the Blue Devils at 7:00 PM, statistical preview of what to expect when the teams take the floor.

[Mark Umansky]

It's still a "Super Tuesday" in Blacksburg even if both No. 20 Virginia Tech and No. 3 Duke are without their superstars. By the (Advanced) Numbers takes a look at what to expect when the ballyhooed Blue Devils (24-3) enter the Cassell to face the Hokies (21-6).

Overall Matchup

The Massey Composite computer rankings collect rankings on every team across many computer rankings systems available.

Every computer in the composite has Duke ranked either 1st or 2nd nationally. On one hand, most computers do not adjust for individual player absences, so missing Zion Williamson would not be factored in. On the other, they also have not factored in Justin Robinson missing. However, Robinson isn't Williamson, and the Hokies have played more games without Robinson than Duke has without Williamson, and the reduced performances are obviously implicitly included in the rankings.

Overall statistics are provided by the KenPom rating system and provide a breakdown for total team efficiency as well as offensive- and defensive-specific numbers.

The Massey Composite and KenPom rankings do not update on the same cadence, so KenPom actually has Duke narrowly as the #3 rated team at the moment, led by their #3 offense and #5 defense. We only have two data points for Duke without Williamson, UNC and Syracuse, and they tell very different stories about whether these ratings are still fitting.


Offensive personality ratings are defined as follows:

  • Pace: The number of possessions the team has averaged per 40 minutes of clock time.
  • Total Rebound %: The percentage of possible rebounds — offensive and defensive — that the team gained.
  • Assist %: The percentage of made shots that were assisted.

Duke prefers a faster pace than most teams, while the Hokies are adept at slowing play down...look for the game as a whole to meet somewhere in the middle while the two plays their respective styles.

Shooting offense is compared using these statistics:

  • eFG %: Effective field goal percentage is a regular field goal percentage statistic but adjusted for the number of points the shot is worth.
  • 3 Pt %: Rather than the percentage of 3-pt shots made, this statistic is the percentage of shots taken that are 3-pt shots.
  • FTA per FGA: A reflection of a tendency to get fouled while shooting, this is the number of free throw attempts gained per field goal attempt taken.

The Hokies are clearly more effective in effective shooting percentage, but the team lives and dies by the three as seen against Virginia.


The defensive personality statistics are defined as:

  • Steal %: The percentage of opponent possessions that end with a steal.
  • Block %: The percentage of opponent possessions that end with a block.
  • Opponent Offensive Rebound %: The percentage of possible offensive rebounds gained by the opponent (so 100% - defensive rebound %).

Pick your poison against Duke: the team leads the nation in steal percentage and is second nationally in block percentage. That is a very aggressive defense. Although, Williamson leads the ACC in steals per game (2.1), and is sixth in blocks (1.8).

The shooting defense metrics are the same as the shooting offense metrics, but based on opponents' performance.

This highlights the strength-on-strength matchup Tuesday night: Duke holds opponents to incredibly low effective shooting percentages, while the Hokies are among the best nationally at it on offense. And while the Hokies take a high percentage of shots from beyond the arc, the Duke defense is among the best nationally at keeping opponents from taking threes. Will the Hokies switch up styles and drive the lane more?


Predicting what Duke will play like without Zion Williamson is difficult, mostly because they have looked both pedestrian and elite in their two games without him. Virginia Tech has played Duke without their star before, and came away victorious (2016, Grayson Allen). One aspect of Buzz Williams' tenure has been the team believing they can beat anyone, and they are unlikely to be intimidated by the Blue Devils. The Hokies seem to be clicking despite Robinson's absence, and Kerry Blackshear remains on a roll that continues Tuesday night.

Virginia Tech 72, Duke 69. Nice.


It was exactly 8 years ago today that VT beat #1 Duke in Blacksburg. Just saying.

I was there that day. Junior year at Tech. Cassell was absolutely rocking the entire game. The players were dancing with the fans on the court after the game to Black Eyed Peas. Good times.

"What kind of person would throw away a perfectly good dog?"

my junior year, too. was one of my best game memories in school. didn't realize how steep that eight (?) foot drop was from the student section to the floor!

I was going to say my Junior year too, but realized I was a sophomore...still one of the best memories. As we stormed down, we broke a couple chairs, and yeah that drop is a lot bigger than you think!

My senior year. I didn't get a ticket. Was watching at my apartment and compelled to go downtown afterwards. Good times.

Damn Duke is ranked #30? We might have a chance... ;)

I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction:
“I served in the United States Navy"


If we win, I'm twirling on the big ass fan tonight.

Tyrod did it Mikey, Tyrod did it!!

Did you get dizzy?


With 5 we averaged 79 points per game. Without 5 we average 63. Don't know what the number of possesions is per game with our without...but it seems like we've slowed our pace down without Robinson.


If I am reading the Opp 3 pt % chart correctly, Tech is the 3rd worst team in the country at guarding the 3 pt shot. So I am not crazy in thinking that teams shoot well above their average from 3 against us.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

Pretty sure that's just the percentage of shots that are 3 pointers, not percentage made.

the Duke defense is among the best nationally at keeping opponents from taking threes

As I read closer, I think you are correct. This also doesn't mean that Tech plays bad 3 pt defense, it could mean that the Tech defense forces opponents into a desperation 3 as the shot clock expires more often than most. On the flip side, teams might have an easier time getting to the rim or finding shots in the lane against Duke.

Statistics are like a bikini, what they show is often interesting, what they hide is essential.

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

Your analysis is good, but your bikini thing made me leg you.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

If we hit 40% or better from 3 range, we win.

I admit, I was wrong but I will take the win anyway.

Strength on Strength = we kicked their ass!!! GO HOKIES!!!!