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The key three: Duke basketball vs. Virginia Tech

The Blue Devils hit the road tonight to square off against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Here are the keys for Duke to avoid a second consecutive loss.

Can Mason bounce back?

Mason Plumlee was used and abused by Alex Len and the Maryland frontcourt last Saturday. The National Player of the Year candidate looked anything but, scoring just four points on 2-of-7 shooting and grabbing only three rebounds before fouling out. Tonight Duke needs Mason to round back into form and post numbers more similar to his season averages of 17.6 points and 10.4 rebounds. If Mason can't find his offense tonight, head coach Mike Krzyzewski may have to utilize a small unit with Josh Hairston at center along with four guards. Hopefully, it won't come to that for Coach K.

Can Duke stop Erick Green?

The Hokies' senior guard is a bona fide superstar. Green is averaging a whopping 25.3 points per game while also contributing over four rebounds and assists. Green has only twice this year failed to reach the 20 point mark in a game. The onus of stopping this juggernaut will likely fall on the shoulders of Rasheed Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton. The two Duke guards will need to find a way to stop Green without getting themselves in foul trouble—Green gets to the line 8.5 times per game. Sulaimon especially needs to protect himself, as his scoring ability could be sorely needed if Plumlee doesn't return to his old form.

Is this the new Josh Hairston?

Hairston tore a ligament in his right thumb prior to Duke's game against Maryland last week, but that didn't stop him from having his best game of the season. The 6-foot-7 junior rattled in 11 points against the Terrapins, including one of his guilty-pleasure deep jump shots. Hairston was so effective that he was even on the floor ahead of Mason Plumlee for stretches. If Hairston can be a force defensively by drawing offensive fouls—that's been his specialty—and still be serviceable on the other end of the floor, the team's play as a whole will be greatly improved.


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