Hokies Open ACC Play With Showdown Against No. 5 Duke


Hokies open ACC play on Saturday at Cassell Coliseum against No. 5 Duke

The Virginia Tech Hokies (11-1) enter Saturday’s game at home at a sold-out Cassell Coliseum looking to continue a strong season with a win against the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils (13-1).

This of course, is easier said than done, as the Blue Devils are far-and-away the best team the Hokies have faced to date, and there is a strong chance that they are the best team that the Hokies will face all season long.

The Blue Devils’ strong 13-1 start includes victories over Michigan State and Florida, among others, with their lone blemish coming against Kansas by two in a neutral site game at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The Blue Devils will be without their All-American guard, Grayson Allen, who was suspended indefinitely by coach Mike Krzyzewski after Allen tripped an opposing player for the third time in this calendar year last week against Elon.

Even without Allen, who was second on the team averaging 16.0 points per game, the Blue Devils roster still presents plenty of challenges for the Hokies. Point guard Luke Kennard has been fantastic this season as a sophomore, averaging 20.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

Duke’s Amile Jefferson has returned from a foot injury that cost him a majority of the 2015-16 campaign, and has been fantastic in the paint for the Blue Devils.

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He is averaging 14.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per contest this season, and could become a major headache down low for the Hokies, who struggle with size given their lack of it in their frontcourt. If Jefferson has another great game on Saturday, it may be tough for the Hokies to overcome.

As for Virginia Tech, the Hokies will lean heavily on Chris Clarke, who has posted a triple-double and double-double in his last two contests, while cementing himself as the Hokies’ best two-way player in the process. Clarke is averaging 10.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.4 steals per game on the season thus far.

In addition to Clarke, the Hokies have four other players averaging double-figures in points this season, led by senior Zach LeDay, who is the team’s most offensively talented big man with Kerry Blackshear sidelined by injury. LeDay has been solid ever since he arrived in Blacksburg last season, but has been especially stellar this year, averaging 16.5 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Virginia Tech takes on Duke at Noon ET at Cassell Coliseum on Saturday, with the game being broadcast on ESPN2.