X-Factor: Roach's scoring talent, on-court presence essential for Duke men's basketball's road clash at Virginia Tech

Senior guard Jeremy Roach drives to the basket in Jan. 27 win against Clemson.
Senior guard Jeremy Roach drives to the basket in Jan. 27 win against Clemson.

After a nail-biting win against Clemson, the Blue Devils are taking on another ACC opponent in Virginia Tech on the road. Before the matchup, the Blue Zone looks at a potential difference-maker for both teams:

Duke: Jeremy Roach

As Duke prepared to take on Clemson Saturday afternoon, there was something a little off. Senior point guard Jeremy Roach participated in pregame warmups, but when the Blue Devil starting lineup was announced to a raucous Cameron Indoor Stadium, his name was noticeably absent.

After landing awkwardly in Duke’s Jan. 23 victory against Louisville, Roach attempted to play through the pain but eventually sat down for good shortly into the second half. With questions surrounding whether the senior would play against the Tigers, Roach was ultimately able to suit up but was forced to start the game on the bench. 

The senior was the first substitution for the Blue Devils and ended up playing 25 minutes — lower than his typical total but still a substantial day of work. In those minutes, though, the Leesburg, Va., native turned in one of his poorest performances in recent memory. He made just one of his eight shots and amassed only five points, good for his second-lowest scoring output of the season. The always reliable Roach was, for the most part, a non-factor against Clemson, and it was a large reason why Duke nearly fell to the Tigers.

The Blue Devils often go as Roach goes. When the veteran guard is playing confidently and efficiently, Duke is able to dominate opponents on a regular basis. When he is injured or struggling, head coach Jon Scheyer and his team find themselves in narrow contests much more often. With a trip to Virginia Tech on the horizon, Roach will be looking to return to his pre-injury form in hopes of guiding the Blue Devils to a comfortable victory.

Virginia Tech: Hunter Cattoor

Unfortunately for Duke fans, Hunter Cattoor is a painfully familiar name. Not only is this his fifth season playing for the Hokies, but the best game of his career prevented the Blue Devils from winning their 22nd ACC title. The Orlando, Fla., native exploded for 31 points in the championship game of the 2022 ACC Tournament as he led Virginia Tech to its first ACC tournament title in program history. Cattoor knocked in seven of his nine 3-point attempts in the dominant showing. Duke would win its next four games to reach the Final Four, but it was thanks to Cattoor that former Blue Devil head coach Mike Krzyzewski failed to bring home one last conference title in his final season.

Now in his third full season starting for the Hokies, Cattoor is averaging 13.7 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, including a season-high 19-point performance in a Jan. 20 win at N.C. State. He remains an impressive shooter from beyond the arc, entering Monday’s contest shooting 42.9% from distance. On the defensive end, the graduate student leads the team in steals with 21 — a trait that will come in handy against Duke as he attempts to pester the talented guards on the roster.

By no means is Cattoor a new or unfamiliar cog in the Virginia Tech machine, but he will be an important one for Scheyer to gameplan for regardless. The Blue Devils know better than anyone that Cattoor is able to take over a game in an instant, so it is hard to imagine that Duke will not have an extra set of eyes on him at all times.


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