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No. 7 Virginia vs Duke: 5 key storylines for 2020-21 ACC Basketball matchup

Dec 16, 2020; South Bend, Indiana, USA; The Duke Blue Devils celebrate in the second half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 16, 2020; South Bend, Indiana, USA; The Duke Blue Devils celebrate in the second half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /
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Duke Blue Devils Matthew Hurt Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Duke Blue Devils Matthew Hurt Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports /

Pair of ACC Player of the Year forwards facing off

Had Virginia found a way to win on Monday and make themselves the clear favorite to win the regular-season title, that probably would’ve meant that leading scorer Sam Hauser would’ve been the clear frontrunner to win ACC Player of the Year.

He still might be. Averaging a team-leading 14.8 ppg and 6.9 rpg on 51% shooting from the field and 44% from three-point range, the Marquette transfer went from being inconsistent to start the season to producing double figures in all but one ACC game. What’s helping Hauser the most is the league’s top players from a statistical standpoint (Justin Champagnie of Pittsburgh and Matthew Hurt of Duke) are closer to the bottom of the standings than the top.

In a normal year, a player from Duke putting up numbers like Hurt is doing would be at the top of consideration. The sophomore is having a breakout campaign, averaging 18.3 ppg and 6.4 rpg on 56% shooting from the field and 46% from deep. He has eight games of at least 20+ points this season, including the last two without Johnson around anymore.

Both Hauser and Hurt are stretch power forwards with a great offensive game and decent defense. They’ll be matched up against one another, which will be fun to watch. Each team relies on these guys for lots of scoring production so whoever wins this positional battle, could have an edge overall in this game. Hurt will have even more pressure on him, considering the defensive scheme he’ll be going against.