Tonight, Virginia Tech’s men’s basketball team travels to famed Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. to face off against the No. 3 Duke Blue Devils.
In these teams’ last meeting, the Blue Devils (25-4, 12-4 ACC) were coming off a disappointing 83-81 loss to Maryland and proceeded to thrash the Hokies 88-56. The star of that game was senior guard Seth Curry, who scored 22 points, despite the efforts of the crowd to rattle him with taunts based on his father, Hokie-great Dell Curry.
This time however, the Blue Devils are coming off one of their best wins of the season, over then-No. 5 Miami — their main competition in the ACC. The win also marked the return of forward Ryan Kelly from a two month absence due to a foot injury.
Kelly went off against the Hurricanes, finishing with a career-high 36 points and knocking down seven of nine three-pointers. Kelly also helped teammate, and ACC player of the year candidate, Mason Plumlee by keeping opponents from being able to double team him.
A key question for Duke will be just how much Kelly can contribute down the stretch. While it is unlikely he will be as effective as he was in his spectacular return, he is still a key cog on a national title contender. If Kelly can stay on the court, then the Blue Devils will again look like the consensus #1 they were in November.
Meanwhile, the Hokies (13-16, 4-12 ACC) are coming off a senior night victory over Clemson, sending off star guard and lone senior Erick Green with one last win in Cassell Coliseum. Green was yet again the star of the night, scoring 29 points and raising his nation-leading points per game average to an even 25.
While Green wants to focus on the team, he is closing in on two impressive individual marks. First, if he can hold onto the national scoring title, he will be the first ACC player to win it since 1957. Second, he is within reach of the school record for points in a season.
The record, set in the 1989-90 season by prolific scorer Bimbo Coles, is 785 points. With two games left to go Green has 725, leaving him just 60 points, or 30 points per game, away from Coles. While it is not a slam dunk, Green certainly has the ability to break it.
The Hokies will also be using their last few games to begin to get an idea of what next year’s team will look like without Green to hold them together.
To that end, there was an encouraging sign against Clemson, as Robert Brown broke out of his months-long funk, scoring 13 points. Tech will need Brown and fellow sophomore CJ Barksdale to become significant contributors next season and will be looking for both to make progress in these remaining contests.
The stakes for both teams entering this contest are low, if not non-existent. The Blue Devils are a lock to make it into the NCAA tournament as a high seed, while the Hokies are not even on the radar for the CBI.
However, this is one of the last remaining chances to see Erick Green play in a Tech uniform, barring a miracle run in the ACC tournament. And in a historic building like Cameron Indoor, anything can happen.