Virginia is once again in the driver’s seat to win the ACC regular season title and it didn’t even have to beat Duke. The Cavaliers continue to beat everyone else and don’t have an overwhelming Schedule the rest of the way with two coming against Louisville. A month ago, things could’ve looked differently, but something has been off with the Cardinals since they let their 23-point lead against Duke slip away. They barely got past Clemson last home Game and most recently fell by 20 points at Syracuse.
This isn’t the best time to be having issues, not only late in the season, but also with two Games against Virginia ahead. This matchup also doesn’t help an offense that’s fallen apart since that Duke Game, scoring 56 points against Clemson and 49 against Syracuse. And if you can’t Scoreagainst Syracuse, things will be even more difficult against Virginia, which has the most efficient defense in the ACC.
Louisville isn’t a terrible shooting team, but it’s not a great one, especially when top shooters Jordan Nwora and Dwayne Sutton are in a funk. Ryan McMahon loves to shoot, but he’s also just 3-for-13 from three in the last three Games. If the threes don’t fall, there won’t be many ways for the Cardinals to win because they don’t have the inside presence to overcome Jack Salt and Virginia’s constant double teams. Guys like Malik Williams and Steven Enoch provide size, but rarely produce offensively. It’s going to depend on Nwora, to not only make shots, but also to drive and force defensive action from De’Andre Hunter and Braxton Key. Even the lengthier Mamadi Diakite will be asked to defend Nwora and none of them are a good matchup for Louisville. If Nwora is off his Game, there aren’t many other ways for the Cards to win unless Christen Cunningham comes through after his recent Four-point outing against Syracuse.
Louisville prefers to play fast, but given how its offense has looked, playing slow might be the best strategy since it’s not going to run Virginia off the cOurt. The Cards also have the second most efficient defense in the Conference so that should help against Virginia’s shooters. The length of Sutton and Nwora will cause problems and both should be a good matchup for Hunter. The problem will be trying to limit Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy on the perimeter because both could have their way against Cunningham or McMahon. Khwan Fore can be a nuisance at times and could be asked to follow Guy around, but he’s also a non-factor on the other end and trying to completely hold down Guy is rarely a possibility.
There are few people that will back Louisville with the way it’s looked since the Duke Game. Even if it returned to previous levels, this was always going to be a difficult matchup. If the Cards had a better mindset heading into this one, there are reasons to take them with an upset bid due to length and defense, but that’s a tough ask right now after a recent 49-point effort.
Our Pick – Louisville +5.5