College Basketball Pick
It hasn’t been the easiest week for Duke, but it could end well. The Blue Devils went to Chapel Hill on Wednesday night, lost a player and still beat UNC. Now, they face Louisville on the road. They re-entered the Top 25 and even with a loss in this Game, it’s hard to see them falling out of it. The Cardinals have had problems of their own since receiving the self-imposed ban, but part of that was due to two rough road Games, and one of those was against Duke. The Cardinals dismantled Syracuse on Wednesday night.
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These teams met less than two weeks ago with Duke holding on for a 72-65 win. Louisville fought back and actually led with roughly Four minutes to go, but the Blue Devils kept attacking the basket and that was enough. Duke’s 28 free throw attempts doubled what Louisville took and that ended up being the difference as 13 of its final 17 points came from the foul line.
The main issue for the Cardinals was the struggle of leading scorer Damion Lee. After missing the previous Game, he went just 3-of-15 from the floor, didn’t make a three and only had 10 points. Lee’s had some bad shooting performances this season, but that was one of the worst and it’s hard to see him doing that again against a mediocre defense. Another problem for Louisville has been the play of Chinanu Onuaku, who has suddenly fallen off a cliff statistically. Onuaku had six straight double doubles early in the ACC season, but had really struggled in the last few weeks, often dealing with foul trouble. He picked up 13 points and 15 boards against ‘Cuse and will need that same kind of Game here. Onuaku had just two points and three rebounds in the first meeting as Marshall Plumlee and Brandon Ingram both had more rebounds than anyone on Louisville.
That simply can’t happen for the Cardinals again. Louisville didn’t even play terrible defense in the first Game outside of the fouling. The issue came on the offensive end where freshman Donovan Mitchell was the team’s leading scorer.
Duke’s zone will likely be a problem for Louisville again if the Cardinals aren’t hitting their shots. Trey Lewis and Lee combined to go 1-of-9 from distance and that’s not how to beat a zone. The Cards may not have much to play for, but they still have been a much better team at home this year, only losing to Virginia in Conference play. They took down UNC in a recent home Game as Lee dropped 24 points.
Louisville has what it takes to beat Duke, there’s no doubt about that, but if they struggle from the floor, nothing is a certain. The Blue Devils will likely go down low again with Plumlee in an effort to get Onuaku in foul trouble and Ingram was at his best in that first Game when he was drawing fouls. And then there’s still Grayson Allen, who’s averaging over 20 points per Game. He usually has trouble with bigger guards on the perimeter, but that’s not something Louisville has outside of Lee.
Duke is now on a five-Game winning streak and looking like a team that could make a run in March and for the ACC regular season title. Back-to-back road wins at ranked teams would be huge for the Blue Devils. However, Matt Jones injured his ankle Wednesday and is unlikely to play in this Game. Everything worked out against the Heels, but playing with only five or six guys against this Louisville team isn’t ideal.
Score Prediction – Louisville 78 Duke 76