Duke enters the ACC tournament as the top seed for the first time in four years. The Blue Devils get the added bonus of opening against a Virginia team that is missing its top player.
Fourth-ranked Duke will try to take its first step toward a second straight conference tournament title Friday when it faces the Cavaliers, the ninth seed, in the quarterfinals at Greensboro Coliseum.
The Blue Devils (26-5) failed to win the outright conference championship as it lost to Maryland on March 3. Duke shared the title with the Terrapins, but won the tiebreaker to claim the No. 1 seed.
This is the 17th time Duke has been the top seed and first since winning the title in Greensboro in 2006.
“Especially this year, because people are seeing how well we’ve been doing, (they) want to get us even more because that’ll prove something about their team,” senior center Brian Zoubek said. “We have to have even more resolve because of that, and recognize that teams are going to be coming after us every single game. We’re not going to be able to take a game off and just win. That doesn’t happen.”
Duke will try to defeat Virginia (15-15) for the fifth straight time as it looks to move toward a record 18th ACC tournament championship. The Blue Devils will be counting on Jon Scheyer and Kyle Singler - both first-team All-ACC selections - along with Nolan Smith to carry them. The trio accounted for 66.5 percent of the team’s scoring this season.
Scheyer, runner-up to Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez for conference player of the year, was the MVP of last season’s ACC tournament after scoring 29 points in the 79-69 title game victory over Florida State.
“You win one championship, you want to win one more, and then you want to win another,” Scheyer said. “So I think, for us, we’ve been there before and we know what it takes. Going into the ACC tournament, our expectation is to win it, and the same thing with the NCAA tournament.”
Virginia had lost nine in a row - its longest slide since 1961-62 - heading into the conference tournament, but defeated eighth-seeded Boston College 68-62 on Thursday for its first ACC tournament victory since 2006.
Sammy Zeglinski scored 16 of his season-high 21 points in the first half and reserve Mike Scott had 11 points and 13 rebounds as Virginia won without Sylven Landesberg. The Cavaliers’ leading scorer with 17.3 points per game was suspended for the rest of the season Saturday for failing to meet academic obligations.
On Monday, senior guard Calvin Baker left the team for the remainder of the season due to family reasons.
“We’ve had some struggles and we’ve had some setbacks,” coach Tony Bennett said. “They have come together and they have worked hard. There’s been a good attitude. You have to do that when your tank isn’t full, and I’m just really proud of the way they handled it.”
With Landesberg out with a bruised thigh, the host Cavaliers lost to then-No. 5 Duke 67-49 on Feb. 28. Singler scored 21 to pace the Blue Devils, who shot 48.0 percent from the field and limited Virginia to 31.4 percent.
Jerome Meyinsse led Virginia with a career-high 21 points, but no other Cavalier scored more than seven.
Duke has won 26 of the last 29 matchups and leads the series 111-48.
The winner plays in Saturday’s first semifinal against fourth-seeded Virginia Tech or 12th-seeded Miami.