One year ago, Virginia Tech upset No. 5 Duke 64-63 in Blacksburg as forward Chris Clarke slammed home the winning points with less than 5 seconds to go. History mostly repeated itself Tuesday night.
While there was no need for late-game drama, the Hokies topped the third-ranked Blue Devils 77-72 behind double-digit scoring nights from senior guard Ahmed Hill and junior forward Kerry Blackshear. The win lifted No. 20 Virginia Tech to 22-6, while Duke fell to 24-4 and out of first place in the ACC.
Blue Devil freshman star Zion Williamson sat for his second straight game after suffering a Grade 1 right knee sprain 33 seconds into the North Carolina loss last Wednesday. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has overseen 2 losses in the last 3 games without his freshman centerpiece.
No Zion may also mean no more No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Too Many Losses May Push Duke out of the Top Seed
Entering the evening, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi slotted Duke atop the East Regional out of Washington (D.C.). The Blue Devils could be pushed out by North Carolina and Tennessee, both projected 2-seeds at the moment.
The Tar Heels have surged into the top-5 in the AP Poll after 6 wins over the last month. This includes the 16-point rout at Cameron Indoor last week, as well as a pair of top-20 victories over Louisville and Florida State. Assuming they hold serve against Syracuse tonight, Roy William’s squad will continue to rise.
Tennessee can regain momentum this week after 2 losses in its last 4 games. After a road trip Wednesday to Ole Miss, the seventh-ranked Volunteers host No. 4 Kentucky Saturday in a rematch of the 86-69 loss two weeks ago. Should Tennessee sweep the competition this week, which would include a top-5 scalp, expect them to seize a No. 1 seed over the Blue Devils & Wildcats.
Krzyzewski has stated that Williamson is day-to-day, and the typical recovery for a knee sprain is a few weeks, according to Physio Works. That would see him return either for the regular season finale March 9 at North Carolina or the ACC Tournament.
In the meantime, he will have to rely on freshmen R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish. The former led the team with 21 points, while the former notched 17. Both were former 5-star high school recruits.
Virginia Tech Had a Breakthrough Night
Buzz William’s team is 0-3 against Virginia and North Carolina, now the only teams tied atop the ACC. The Hokies lost those games by an average of 16.3 points.
Four players reached double-digits to fuel the upset. Blackshear led all scorers with 23 points, while Hill chipped in 17 of his own. Projected lottery pick Nickiell Alexander-Walker struggled his way to 13 points on 10 shots.
The Hokies expect to climb bracket projections after the massive win. They started the week as a 5-seed in the Midwest Regional, which would send them to Kansas City (Mo.) if they made the Sweet 16.
Virginia Tech gets a week off before they visit currently No. 16 Florida State on March 5.