Winning memories spur up-tempo VCU against Duke

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Winning memories spur up-tempo VCU against Duke

For many college basketball programs, previous encounters with Duke invoke painful or at least losing memories. Quite the opposite for Virginia Commonwealth - and now the program's current roster has its own opportunity to add a "we beat Duke" chapter to the school's history.

Following Friday's win over No. 19 Memphis, VCU (3-1) faces the fifth ranked Blue Devils (4-0) in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas. Giving Duke's ranking and prestige, this game has the illusion of David vs. Goliath to the uninitiated, but quite the opposite to those aware of previous events.

Over the last two seasons, the Shaka Smart-coached Rams have reached the NCAA Tournament's Final Four and the third round this past March. Since winning the National Championship in 2010, Duke bowed out in the round of 16 in 2011 and last year dropped its opening game against Lehigh.

Last season's loss was the Blue Devils earliest exit since 2007, the year VCU stunned Duke 79-77 for the program's first NCAA Tournament win in 22 seasons. Current Oklahoma City Thunder guard Eric Maynor scored 22 points that day five seasons ago in VCU's only meeting against Duke. His free throw line jumper with a second remaining propelled the Rams to what at the time was the biggest win in the program's history.

In the next battle with Duke, once again it will be VCU's backcourt leading the way. To call the Rams up-tempo would not accurately describe the rapid pace Smart choreographs for his squad, especially on defense. Spearheaded by guards Treveon Graham, Darius Theus, Briante Weber and Rob Brandenberg, VCU's relentless pressure forced 22 turnovers against Memphis, leading to 33 points.

Graham leads the Rams in scoring with 14.5 points, just ahead forward Juvonte Reddic (14.3), the team's top post option. Weber and Theus combine for 5.5 steals per game while the Rams average 9.75 3-pointers per game.

Even though Duke has perimeter threats of its own, including sharpshooter Seth Curry (18.3 ppg), VCU would be wise to keep the tempo moving considering the Blue Devils' interior power. 6-foot-10 Mason Plumlee is averaging 21.3 points while shooting a staggering 71.4 percent from the field. Mason Plumlee. The senior dominated with 20 points and 17 rebounds in Thursday's 89-71 win over Minnesota.

The challenge is not lost on Smart, who will battle coaching wits with Duke's famed leader Mike Krzyzewski for the first time.

"Playing Duke, what an incredible opportunity,'' Smart told the Associated Press "We'll be facing arguably the best program in the nation and with no argument the best coach in the modern era.

"But we won't fold up to the test.''

Media picks Virginia Tech, Virginia to finish low in the Coastal Division

Media picks Virginia Tech, Virginia to finish low in the Coastal Division

Expectations in Blacksburg and Charlottesville are high for their new coaches, just not among the media.

With Justin Fuente taking over for Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech and Broncon Mendenhall for Mike London at Virginia, the media is not expecting much from either coach in their first season. Virginia Tech was picked to finish fourth in the Coastal Division in the ACC Media Poll while Virginia was picked dead last.

Here are the full results with first place votes in parentheses:

Coastal Division
1. North Carolina (121) - 1,238
2. Miami (50) - 1,108
3. Pitt (14) - 859
4. Virginia Tech (3) - 697
5. Duke (2) - 597
6. Georgia Tech (1) - 588
7. Virginia - 261

Atlantic Division
1. Clemson (148) - 1,293
2. Florida State (42) - 1,176
3. Lousiville (1) - 961
4. NC State - 704
5. Boston College - 441
6. Syracuse - 426
7. Wake Forest - 347

ACC Championship
1. Clemson - 144
2. Florida State - 39
3. North Carolina - 7
4. Louisville - 1

Fourth is the lowest Virginia Tech has been picked since the ACC split into divisions in 2005. The good news for both Hokies and Cavaliers fans is that the media is almost always wrong when it comes to these polls. Last year's Coastal winner, North Carolina, was picked to finish fifth in last year's poll.

The lowest Virginia Tech has been picked to finish in the ACC was sixth in 2004, the Hokies' first year in the league. Virginia Tech went on to win the conference that year and played in the Sugar Bowl.

RELATED: TMZ RELEASES VIDEO OF MARCUS VICK RUNNING FROM POLICE

TMZ releases video of Marcus Vick running from police

TMZ releases video of Marcus Vick running from police

Marcus Vick has had a tough day.

First, he decided to start a Twitter beef with Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy. Vick insinuated on Twitter that his ex-girlfriend contracted an STD from McCoy. (You can read the Tweets here but please note they contain explicit language).

As if that wasn't dumb enough, TMZ released video of Vick running from police in an April incident that resulted in his arrest.

In the video, three Cops are standing around Vick when he takes off. He makes it outside and down the sidewalk. It looks like he may get away, but then he sits down and gives himself up as a cop approaches with his gun drawn.

Vick was wanted for contempt of court in Montgomery County. As officers attempted to arrest Vick, he instead chose to flee from the police. That's right, Vick fled from police over a contempt of court charge. He ultimately pled guilty to resisting arrest.

RELATED: HALL TO BE INDUCTED INTO VT HALL OF FAME

DeAngelo Hall to be inducted into Virginia Tech Hall of Fame

DeAngelo Hall to be inducted into Virginia Tech Hall of Fame

Former Virginia Tech standout and current Washington Redskins safety DeAngelo Hall will be inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame, the school has announced.

Hall played for the Hokies from 2001 to 2003, catching an interception as a true freshman in the very first game of his collegiate career. He was a dynamic player for Virginia Tech on defense, offense and special teams, scoring touchdowns in all three phases of the game. Hall remains the only player in school history to return two punts for touchdowns in the same game which he did in 2003 against Syracuse. He also played a major role in one of the biggest wins in program history, a 31-7 win over No. 2 Miami in 2003 in which Hall scored a touchdown on a strip and return.

The Chesapeake, Va. native was named an All-American after the 2003 season. He left Virginia Tech after three years and was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2004 NFL Draft. He is now in his eighth season in Washington.

Kerri Gardin, Kevin Jones, Spyridon Jullien, Ashlee Lee and Jim Weaver will also be inducted with Hall. The ceremony will take place on Sept. 16 and all six will be introduced the following day during halftime of Virginia Tech's game against Boston College.

RELATED: VIRGINIA TECH LANDS FOUR COMMITMENTS SATURDAY