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Duke will need Trevon Duval to bounce back Saturday from a tough outing at Wake Forest.

X Factor: Can Trevon Duval bounce back against Virginia?



The last time Virginia won in Cameron Indoor Stadium in January,1995, not a single player on Duke’s roster was alive. However, in this matchup of the Cavaliers, owners of the top-ranked defense in the nation, and the Blue Devils, the second-best offensive team in the country, the margin for error for both sides is slim. The Blue Zone takes a look at one player from each team that could be the difference-maker.

Duke: Guard Trevon Duval

Heading into a top-four matchup against one of the most disciplined and patient defensive-minded teams in the country, Duke’s mission is to prevent Virginia from dictating the pace and style of the game. The Blue Devils, who average 75.8 team possessions per game and have the second-best offense in the nation according to KenPom.com, will need to keep up the tempo and play to their strengths. No player is more important to this goal than the team’s freshman point guard, Trevon Duval.

In Virginia’s lone loss this season, the Cavaliers—who average the least possessions per game in Division I—fell on the road to West Virginia, one of the faster-playing teams in the country at just under 75 possessions per game. In that game, Virginia committed 14 turnovers, nearly five more than their season average of 9.5. The Mountaineers are led by senior point guard Jevon Carter; if Duval can mimic Carter’s performance against Virginia—23 points and seven rebounds—the Blue Devils would likely be in good shape. But more importantly, they need Duval to push the pace and control the game in the same way his elder counterpart did earlier this year to knock off the at-times painfully slow Cavaliers.

For Duke to succeed, the No. 6 overall recruit in his class will need to make a quick turnaround from his previous two performances in big wins against Wake Forest and Pitt, currently the bottom two teams in the ACC. Duval had a combined five points and six assists in those two games after posting 17 and eight in a big road win against Miami. The Blue Devils need him to return to form to keep their 17-game winning streak against Virginia at Cameron Indoor Stadium alive on Saturday. 

Virginia: Forward Isaiah Wilkins

According to former Duke forward and current ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, Cavaliers’ forward Isaiah Wilkins is one of the most underrated players in the country. He is averaging just under seven points and seven rebounds per game, and his 34 blocks are double the count of his next closest teammate. With Duke’s powerful tandem of Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III looming Saturday, Wilkins is Virginia’s best hope to provide a counter in the post to one of the most talented frontcourts in the nation. 

Wilkins— also Virginia’s rebound leader— brings another important trait with him to Cameron Indoor— experience. Wilkins is one of three captains for the Cavaliers—his frontcourt counterpart, redshirt junior Jack Salt, is another—and has been through big games in front of the Cameron Crazies before. Wilkins and Salt were there in 2016 when Grayson Allen hit his infamous buzzer-beater, stealing a win for unranked Duke against then-No. 7 Virginia. This season, the reigning member of the All-ACC defensive team has been a force for the Cavaliers, particularly on defense, where he anchors the top scoring defense in the nation in the post. Virginia will need his leadership and post presence across from Salt, another experienced leader, to knock off the young Blue Devils on Saturday. 


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