After their arduous 85-78 semifinal victory against top-seeded Miami on Friday night, Duke basketball should appreciate the 23.5 hours of rest it earned. In spite of facing a Hurricanes defence that sometimes covered all 94 feet, just six Blue Devils played more than five minutes in the game.
The No. 4 seed Blue Devils (25-8) will play No. 2 seed Virginia (25-6) at 8:30 p.m. ET on Saturday (ESPN) for the right to cut the nets at Greensboro Coliseum, but this banner-hunting Duke squad isn’t accustomed to playing late-night games.
Just twice this season (both victories for Duke) have tip times been 8:30 or later; the most recent instance was on December 6. (a 74-62 win over Iowa). Virginia, on the other hand, is 5-2 in these contests, including Friday night’s 76-56 win against No. 3 seed Clemson, which allowed the Cavaliers to rest most of their players in the final minutes.
Now, one might argue that Jon Scheyer’s first group of Blue Devils had the most growth throughout a season of any Duke basketball team in history. When compared to where it was a few months ago, this group has changed drastically.
The Blue Devils have won their last eight games. After their contentious 69-62 overtime defeat to Virginia in Charlottesville exactly one month ago, they haven’t lost a game. They are without a doubt playing their best basketball of the season, with all six of their starters—five of them rookies—upping their games recently.
The Blue Devils are now a potent offensive force in addition to their frightening, long-limbed defence. In their two ACC Tournament games, they have handed out 43 assists while shooting an astounding 58.7 percent from the floor, 45.2 percent from beyond the arc, and 79.1 percent from the charity line.
So, it is clear that they feel at ease with Greensboro’s rims and sight lines.
The Duke basketball team has only suffered one defeat in the ACC Tournament in their past five appearances, which includes this one.
Yet even with a record 21 ACC Tournament victories, the school has only won one trophy throughout that time (2019). Prior to the cancellation of the 2020 ACC Tournament, Duke was inactive, had to leave the programme after only one victory in 2021 due to a COVID-19 lawsuit, and lost to Virginia Tech in the championship game the previous year.
The Cavaliers have only won two ACC Tournament championships in the previous ten years, with 2018 being the most recent, while taking home at least a share of the ACC regular-season championship in six of those years.
Moreover, this Virginia team has won its last four games by an average margin of 12.8 points while allowing no more than 60 points in any of those contests.
Don’t rule out the possibility that Duke’s belief that it should have won its lone regular-season game, in which the officials should have given forward Kyle Filipowski, who would go on to win the ACC Rookie of the Year award, two free throws at the end of regulation, could have motivated the Cavaliers.
In other words, both parties are highly motivated.
The victor may get the top seed for the conference in the NCAA Tournament, however a No. 3 seed may not be completely out of the question.