Louisville Duke CBB

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College Basketball



It took a Marvin Bagley injury, but Duke has returned to national relevance, winning its last three Games, two of which came on the road. The Blue Devils are now home for three of their final Four and could ideally rest Bagley until the ACC Tournament to ensure that he’ll be fully healthy upon return. Louisville has other ideas, especially as a team that’s coasting along the bubble line.

The Cardinals don’t appear to be a bubble team, but they didn’t do much in non-Conference and haven’t beaten a relevant ACC team outside of Virginia Tech and Florida State. They are in dire need of a quality win and will get chances with three of their final Four on the road. They’ve been solid on the road, although haven’t had enough to take down better teams like Miami and Clemson.

Duke only has one home loss all season and that came to Virginia. The Blue Devils haven’t exactly been challenged at Cameron Indoor outside of that Game, beating teams like Virginia Tech and Notre Dame both by 22 points. If all goes well, this team could be looking at a 1-seed.

The problem for Louisville is that the teams that usually beat up on Duke are ones that can rebound and the Cardinals aren’t good on either end of the cOurt. They’re more about forcing turnovers on the defensive end, while making shots efficiently from inside the arc. Duke’s defense has been better since Bagley hasn’t played and that could be a strong point in this Game.

If Bagley misses again, Duke doesn’t lose any size with Javin DeLAurier and Marques Bolden playing bigger roles down low with Wendell Carter. To help in scoring, Grayson Allen has taken over averaging more than 22 points in the last three Games. Louisville will need to limit Allen’s looks, while also stopping Carter and DeLAurier from dominating the paint. Even if those things happen, Duke can still win through Trevon Duval and Gary Trent, although both of those guys can be unpredictable.

Either way, to have a chance the Cardinals need to hit shots and that’s not a guarantee as top shooters Deng Adel and Quentin Snider both make 39% or less from deep. If you can’t hit threes, scoring consistently could be a problem because Duke now leads the Conference in two-point field goal percentage allowed, which is surprising considering how it has struggled throughout the season. Adel returned over the weekend to Score20 points, but the Cards still lost by 17 points at home. He’ll have to be in that 20-point range again for Louisville to have a chance, as he’ll be matched up with the smaller Trent or Allen.

Someone else will have to step up for Louisville, whether it’s Anas Mahmoud or Ray Spalding down low or Quentin Snider or VJ King on the perimeter. This team hasn’t gotten complete production against any elite team this season and that could be the case again. To win, the Cardinals have to be stronger on the glass, use length to slow down a player like Allen and then find more offense than Adel.

If Louisville doesn’t come through on one of those things, this one could get away from them. against the offense-focused UNC over the weekend, the Cards couldn’t keep up on the scoreboard and that’s what could happen here. The only reason they stayed within 10 points against Virginia is because that’s not a team built to extend leads to blowouts. If Allen continues at his current pace, Duke is in a good position to win easy.

Our Pick – Duke -11