Duke: Center Mark Williams
Duke is coming off of a two-game win streak, against N.C. State and most recently Wake Forest. Although sophomore Matthew Hurt has had an impressive improvement in his game, freshman Mark Williams is also a player that has recently gotten into his groove. The duo have been able to play off of one another, improving each other’s game. Williams helps Hurt defend the rim as well as the big guys while also keeping him out of foul trouble. Williams proved that he’s an asset in the game against N.C. State and now that he’s found his complement on the floor, I believe he will be more important in the remaining games of the season.
Williams set career highs in the N.C. State game, with 13 points, five blocks, and 27 minutes. He has totaled 22 blocked shots thus far, eighth in the ACC and 14th among NCAA freshmen this season. Eighteen of his blocks have been from the past six games. I expect this upward trend to continue against Virginia.
Virginia: Guard Kihei Clark
There has been one common denominator in the past three Duke losses: guards. Duke has had trouble with guards, like Notre Dame’s Cormac Ryan, North Carolina’s Caleb Love, and Miami’s Elijah Olaniyi. This coming matchup with Virginia will put pressure on Duke’s weak spot again with junior Kihei Clark.
Clark recently matched a career high of four 3-pointers against Georgia Tech and has improved in assists throughout the season. The California native has had six or more assists in each of his last six games, averaging 4.6 assists and 9.9 points this season. He was a key player in Virginia’s recent matchup against the Seminoles, leading Virginia’s 16-3 run in the second half. Clark was named All-ACC Preseason Second Team and also entered the season on the Bob Cousy Award Watch List.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Virginia defeated Florida State. The Chronicle regrets the error.