X-Factor: Duke men's basketball will need Lively to dominate the paint against Virginia

Dereck Lively II leads Duke with 2.4 blocks per game.
Dereck Lively II leads Duke with 2.4 blocks per game.

Coming off a loss against Miami, the Blue Devils will take on another challenge against No. 8 Virginia. Before the 4 p.m. tipoff Saturday, the Blue Zone looks at a player from both sides capable of leading their team to victory:

Duke: Dereck Lively II

Despite Duke losing 81-59 Monday to Miami, freshman big man Dereck Lively II excelled. The 7-foot-1 center recorded 11 points to match his season high along with six rebounds and five blocks. Lively's performance follows an imposing game against North Carolina last Saturday, when he grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked eight shots. The former No. 1 high school prospect per ESPN has been on an upward progression throughout the season and seems to be hitting his stride at the right time. The ACC season is reaching the homestretch and the postseason is quickly approaching. If the freshman can continue to progress and dominate the interior for Duke, the team will be in a good position to make a deep run in the ACC tournament and potentially the big dance. Looking to the near future, dominating the inside is what the Blue Devils will need out of Lively during their matchup with the Virginia Cavaliers Saturday. Lively has a slight length advantage on the Cavaliers' primary frontcourt players, Kadin Shedrick and Ben Vander Plas. Duke will need another standout performance from Lively if it wants to steal a road win in Charlottesville, Va.

Virginia: Reece Beekman

Virginia is coming off a comfortable 63-50 win against No. 22 N.C. State Tuesday night. The win pushes the Cavaliers to 18-4 on the season and 10-3 in the ACC, putting them in a three-way tie for first place in the conference. A big part of Virginia's success has been the play of junior guard Reece Beekman. The 6-foot-3 Milwaukee native averages 10.2 points on a 44.7% shooting clip and five assists per game. Throughout the season, the Cavaliers have relied on Beekman and graduate student guard Kihei Clark to score and make plays for their offense. The 'Hoos will most likely have the duo lead the offense against Duke as they take on the primary backcourt of Jeremy Roach and Tyrese Proctor. Beekman is coming off back-to-back 15-point games against N.C. State and Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers will need another standout performance from the guard if they want to defend their home turf this weekend.


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