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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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Virginia Basketball
Kihei Clark Virginia Cavaliers (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images) /

Can Duke’s young guards overcome the packline defense of UVA?

One of the reasons why Virginia is favored in this game is due to the matchup on the perimeter. The Cavaliers’ defense has had some cracks but still has looked elite this season, including shooting defense. They’ve been once again a problem for teams that lacks either experience or elite athleticism outside.

For Duke, they’re led by two freshman guards (DJ Steward and Jeremy Roach), as well as senior point guard Jordan Goldwire. From an offensive standpoint, Goldwire won’t be much of a factor unless he can get a wide-open three-pointer. The key will be what Steward, the team’s second-leading scorer (13.2 ppg), can do in this game. He has scored in double figures in 13 of the last 14 games this season, including making at least one three-pointer.

Roach (8.8 ppg) has been much more inconsistent. In the last nine games, the freshman ball-handler has scored either 16, 11, or 2 and fewer points. If Roach scores fewer than five points in this one, the Blue Devils aren’t winning this one.

On the flip side, the Cavaliers’ guards haven’t been the most consistent bunch either. Excluding guard/wing/forward Trey Murphy from this, Kihei Clark leads the primary perimeter players with 9.9 ppg and 4.6 apg. He’s been in double figures in four of the last eight games and when he produces, Virginia almost always wins.

There will be additional pressure on guards Reece Beekman, Casey Morsell, and Thomas Woldetensae to score in this game as well. If any of this trio can be in double figures as well, Duke’s odds go down by a lot.