Virginia Commonwealth (3-1) vs. (5) Duke (4-0)
Friday, November 23, 7 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Imperial Arena (4,500) -- Paradise Island, Bahamas. Television: NBCSN. Home Record: VCU 1-1, Duke 2-0. Away Record: VCU 1-0, Duke 0-0. Neutral Record: VCU 1-0, Duke 2-0. Conference Record: VCU 0-0, Duke 0-0. Series Record: Virginia Commonwealth leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The fifth-ranked Duke Blue Devils and the Virginia Commonwealth Rams will meet up on Friday night in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas.
The winner will play either Louisville or Missouri in the championship game on Saturday night, while the losers will face off in the third place game.
VCU's only loss of the season came in a nail-biter against Wichita State on Nov. 13, but otherwise it has been very impressive. The Rams recorded easy wins over Florida Gulf Coast (80-57) and Winthrop (90-54) before entering the tournament where they took care of business against Memphis in the opening round, 78-65.
Duke's undefeated start to the season has been highlighted by a neutral-court victory over No. 3 Kentucky, a game in which they pulled away in the second half to win, 75-68. The Blue Devils were able to advance in the tournament by making easy work of Minnesota, 89-71.
VCU won the only meeting between these two squads, 79-77, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2007.
The Rams have gotten off to a fine start to the season as far as their shooting percentage is concerned, draining 45.5 percent of their shots overall, but they've been especially impressive from beyond the arc. VCU connects on nearly 10 three-pointers per game at a 43 percent clip, and Thursday's performance against Memphis was no different as it went 13-of-22 from downtown. Treveon Graham contributed four of those treys and finished 8- of-12 overall en route to a game-high 26 points. Rob Bradenberg was even better from deep, going a perfect 5-of-5 for 15 points off the bench. Graham's performance in the opening round allowed him to leapfrog Juvonte Reddic (14.2 ppg) as the team's leading scorer, as he now puts up 14.5 ppg. Darius Theus (10.0 ppg) has also been a reliable source of points.
The Blue Devils have also ridden hot shooting to their 4-0 start, as they are connecting on nearly 50 percent of their field goal attempts en route to 81.5 ppg. They, too, have been great from beyond the arc, hitting nine three- pointers per game at a 43.4 percent clip. The trend continued against Minnesota in the opening round as Duke made 30-of-55 shots from the field, including an astounding 8-of-10 from long range. All five starters scored in double figures, paced by Seth Curry, who was nearly perfect on the afternoon by draining 8-of-11 from the field (3-of-3 from three) and 6-of-7 from the foul line. Mason Plumlee was a beast with 20 points and 17 rebounds, and on the season he's logged 21.3 ppg on 71.4 percent from the floor while grabbing 10.8 rpg. Curry (18.3 ppg) has also been a consistently excellent scorer, while Ryan Kelly (11.5), Rasheed Sulaimon (11.5) and Quinn Cook (10.0, 4.5 apg) have been great assets as well.
With a couple of sharp-shooting squads, the points in this matchup could rack up in no time, but where VCU tends to live and die by the three-ball, Duke is much more well-balanced, meaning that the Blue Devils can pull this one out even with a cold night shooting.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Duke 83, VCU 70
11/23 10:50:37 ET