Up-and-down Virginia faces uphill battle at No. 10 Duke

Duke has so much to play for at this time of the season and the No. 10 Blue Devils insist they’re in the right frame of mind to do so.

“March is my favorite month,” Duke guard Jeremy Roach said.

Duke takes on visiting Virginia in Atlantic Coast Conference action Saturday in Durham, N.C., looking to continue what has been a smooth late-season stretch with one exception.

The Blue Devils (22-6, 13-4 ACC) enter the weekend within one game of first-place North Carolina in the league standings with three games remaining for each team.

Virginia (21-8, 12-6) is still in contention for a share of first place in the ACC, but it will have to beat Duke and get help. The Cavaliers ended a two-game skid by winning 72-68 on Wednesday at Boston College.

“If you’ve watched us this year, you know we squeak some of them out and we’re far from perfect,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “But the kids, they do battle.”

Duke regained its focus after last weekend’s four-point loss at Wake Forest and subsequent court storming that became an issue for days. On Wednesday night, the Blue Devils drilled visiting Louisville 84-59.

Then they were ready to look ahead.

“We have to move on quickly and get ready for a really tough game on Saturday,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “We have to find something during this period that we haven’t found yet.”

Duke doesn’t have the frontline size that it often has enjoyed in recent seasons. But the rebounding has been a positive in many situations.

“We’ve learned we have to gang rebound,” Scheyer said. “We’re smaller, and we’ve done a great job defensive rebounding.”

Roach had 19 points in the Louisville game, and his vibe heading toward the postseason is bound to be important for the Blue Devils.

“He plays the best when the moment is the biggest,” Scheyer said.

That will likely be necessary to some degree with guard Caleb Foster out with an injury for an undetermined amount of time. His right foot was in a boot Wednesday, when he missed a game for the first time this season.

“I don’t know what that time is (before he’ll return),” Scheyer said. “We have to adjust. We have to step up. … You can’t look at the team the same way without Caleb. We have to look at things differently, that’s just the bottom line.”

Duke’s Kyle Filipowski seemed fine after the knee injury from the Wake Forest court storming. He compiled nine points, 10 rebounds and six assists against the Cardinals.

“The biggest thing he has done is just being present in the moment,” Scheyer said.

Scheyer, in his second season as his alma mater’s head coach, will be going for 50th victory as Duke’s coach (49-15).

This is the only meeting in the the regular season. Last February, Virginia won a home game against Duke, but the Blue Devils got revenge by winning the ACC Tournament championship game. The teams have alternated victories across their last seven meetings.

The Cavaliers haven’t played at Duke since February 2022.

“What an opportunity for us,” Bennett said.