Pick with Analysis
After its most recent win, not many will want to bet against Duke the rest of the season. The Blue Devils went to Virginia as an underdog and won almost too easily 81-71. It was an impressive performance not many other schools wanted to see around the country. The big thing for Duke is that it finally hit some outside shots, going 13-for-21 from deep, much better than its season rate sitting around 30 percent.
Louisville is coming off an overtime loss at Florida State and also lost its last home Game against North Carolina. The best way for the Cardinals to win will be if Duke reverts to its usual percentages from three-point range. And even if Duke shoots terribly from distance, it’ll still be hard to go against them.
The Blue Devils are one of the most efficient teams in the country on both ends of the cOurt. Their talent has simply been too much as they lead the country in both blocks and steals on the defensive end, but also two-point percentage on the other end. The Four freshmen of RJ Barrett (23.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Zion Williamson (21.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg), Cam Reddish (13.6 ppg) and Tre Jones (8.7, 5.6 apg) has seemingly gotten better by the Game. Louisville has a decent defense, but that hasn’t mattered for Duke this season, seen in the 81 points scored against Virginia last Game.
The Cardinals should have enough size to deal with Williamson and Reddish with Jordan Nwora, VJ King and Dwayne Sutton, but stopping Barrett will be a problem. Louisville often plays two guys at 6-foot-2 and shorter between Christen Cunningham, Khwan Fore and Ryan McMahon, and there’s no telling how they’ll deal with the size of Barrett on the perimeter. If Barrett is hitting outside shots again, there may be no hope.
However, there’s always a chance in college basketball. To win and stay competitive, Louisville needs to match everything Duke does offensively. If the Cards are on their Game, there will be a chance because Nwora (17.6 ppg), Sutton (11.0 ppg) and Cunningham (10.7 ppg, 4.7 apg) have all had stand out performances in certain Games. Even McMahon coming off the bench can catch fire and that’s something the Cardinals will need. It doesn’t help that Tre Jones usually locks down the opposing point guard so that’s an immediate issue for Cunningham. Then there’s Reddish and Williamson, both of whom have the size and athleticism to deal with Sutton and Nwora. There isn’t a true advantage at center between Marques Bolden and Louisville’s Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, but that’s usually an area to attack Duke.
Louisville is at home so there’s always a chance to win, but to actually take down Duke it needs help. The Blue Devils can’t shoot better than 50 percent from three again, but also the Cardinals have to be smart with the ball. In Conference play, the Cards have turned it over on almost 20 percent of possessions, one of the worst rates in the ACC, something that can’t happen in this Game. Most of the money will be on Duke because it’s a better and more public team, but Louisville still has the bodies to make this a good Game. It’s whether those bodies can stand their ground against the likes of Barrett and Williamson.
Our Pick – Louisville +8