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X-Factor: Another big game from Roach can push Duke men's basketball beyond Virginia Tech

Jeremy Roach drives with the ball against Miami.
Jeremy Roach drives with the ball against Miami.

Fresh off a big win against Miami Saturday afternoon, Duke next heads to Blacksburg, Va., for its first match against Virginia Tech since last year's ACC tournament. The Blue Zone is here with a potential difference-maker for both sides:

Duke: Jeremy Roach

Freshman center Kyle Filipowski may be averaging nearly a 15-point double-double per game this season, but junior guard Jeremy Roach is arguably the most important player to this young Blue Devil squad. Roach is the only returning starter from last year’s group that made a run to the Final Four, and the experience he holds has proven to be invaluable to Duke’s success. The captain is the on-court coach and leader for the unit, and for a Blue Devil team where three or more freshmen are often on the court together, Roach’s veteran presence is what head coach Jon Scheyer’s squad needs when it faces tough opponents.

In his return after sitting out three games due to a toe injury, the junior dropped 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting during Duke’s win against No. 17 Miami Saturday afternoon. The floor general was shooting just 19.2% across his three games before he was sidelined, but this game was a positive sign for Blue Devil fans. 

Since his freshman year, Roach has increased his scoring average by 3.3 points per game and his free-throw percentage from 67.5% to 74.5%. Efficiency from him and a victory in his matchup against the Hokies’ sophomore guard Sean Pedulla will be important for Duke’s success Monday evening. 

Virginia Tech may be just 1-7 in ACC play this year, but is always dangerous, especially at home. Duke needs to be able to count on the leadership and experience of Roach in order to come out with a win in Blacksburg, Va.

Virginia Tech: Hunter Cattoor

Virginia Tech has lost seven straight games and finds itself in the bottom third of the ACC standings during the early stages of conference play, but an explosive performance from senior guard Hunter Cattoor may be key to getting the Hokies back in the win column Monday.

Cattoor is averaging 9.5 points per game this season, and the 6-foot-3 Orlando, Fla., native is lethal from 3-point range. The senior is shooting a blazing 40% from behind the arc this season, and for a Virginia Tech team that shoots an average 22.5 3-pointers per game, the type of shooting accuracy Cattoor has can really determine Virginia Tech’s success.

Blue Devil fans will remember last year when the sharpshooter put up 31 points on 7-for-9 shooting from behind the arc during the Hokies’ 82-67 victory against Duke in the ACC tournament championship. Virginia Tech's veteran guard has a knack for racking up two to three games a season where he shoots at a 20-30% higher clip than his average during the season and ends up doubling, or sometimes tripling, his scoring output. He shows up in big games—he did it last season against Duke and could well do it again Monday.

Over the course of his career, Virginia Tech is 8-1 when Hunter Cattoor scores 15 or more points. It is undefeated when he scores more than 20 points. If Cattoor can get hot during Monday’s game, the Hokies may have an opportunity to steal a win at home against the Blue Devils.

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