TV schedule: January 26, 6:00 pm ET. ESPN
Location: Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina
The three consecutive losses for the Duke Blue Devils, against Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, and Louisville respectively, have all been decided in a seven-point margin or less. This is much different than the Blue Devils’ early-season game against No. 6 Illinois in which they lost by a staggering 15 points.
Admittedly, the Blue Devils season hasn’t been ordinary but whose has? Their first game of the season against Gardner-Webb was postponed and they’ve had five subsequent cancellations or postponements since.
Duke has been supremely underwhelming this year. They’re averaging 73.6 points per game which is good for 156th in the nation. With 36.7 rebounds per game, they’re ranked 150th in the nation. One of the lone bright spots has been sophomore forward Matthew Hurt.
Hurt, from Minnesota, is in his second year of meaningful playing time for the Blue Devils. He averaged 20.5 minutes per game during his freshmen season and has seen a considerable jump to 33 minutes played per game during his sophomore season. Hurt has improved in just about every statistical category since earning more playing time. He’s shooting an impressive 47.3% from three-point range on almost six attempts per game, an eight percent increase since last year. He also leads the team in scoring with almost 19 points per game.
After a dominant win against ranked ACC opponent Clemson Tigers, Georgia Tech lost to ranked Virginia on a last-second shot. Georgia Tech, for its part, has shown that it can hang with the top tier of the ACC. It remains to be seen whether they will have the consistency to compete and win on a regular basis but a dominant win against Duke may be the confidence boost the Yellow Jackets need. Despite Duke’s struggles this year, they still have that aura about them and a win could do more for Georgia Tech’s mental state than their standings.
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have been led by senior guard Jose Alvarado. Alvarado is a four-year starter for the Yellow Jackets. In 91 career games, Alvarado has averaged 34.4 minutes per game. Alvarado is one of those players who, over the course of four years, has shown consistent improvement across the board in nearly every major statistical category.
In his freshman season, Alvarado averaged 12.1 points per game compared to 17.4 this year. He’s increased his assists per game (from 3.1 to 4.3) and decreased his turnovers slightly (2.4 to 2.1 per game). His free throw percentage, three-point percentage, and overall field goal percentage have dramatically increased since the 2017-18 season. It is no doubt that Alvarado is the leader of the Yellow Jackets and however he goes, so goes this basketball team.
Any other year and Duke would have a chance because they are playing this game at home. However, without a stadium full of Cameron Crazies, the game is basically a neutral site. Georgia Tech has looked and executed like a more polished, confident team compared to the struggling Duke Blue Devils. There is no telling what level of confidence the Blue Devils have right now. They could be ripe for another beating at the hands of an ACC opponent.
PREDICTION: Georgia Tech 75, Duke 65