The Duke Blue Devils are headed to take on the Louisville Cardinals at 9 pm EST tonight on ESPN. This game pits two ACC powers against each other for another good test coming off of big games. Duke is coming into this game with a massive win over then #3 ranked Virginia on the road. This was Duke’s second win over Virginia this season, and it will be a major talking point heading into the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinals are coming off of three straight ranked games, only to face their toughest test of the season so far. Louisville is 1-2 in their last 3 games, but those results are not terrible. A 10 point loss to UNC at home is clearly the worst loss, but they then backed it up with a win at Virginia Tech and an OT loss at Florida State. This wasn’t the best stretch, but it doesn’t mean that Louisville isn’t still a strong team.
Louisville Needs to Find a Way to Slow Duke Down
There are some clear issues that Louisville will have to deal with in this game, which will likely be the key to the game. The first is the way Duke shot the 3-ball in Virginia on Saturday night. Duke is a below-average 3-pt shooting team, but they are talented scorers that are not known for being “bad shooters.” Cam Reddish and R.J. Barrett shot 5-8 and 6-10 respectively from beyond the arc last game. If they shoot like that in any game, I’d be absolutely stunned if they lost.
Now, I believe this to be more of an outlier than a norm, as Steph Curry doesn’t shoot 60% from 3-pt range, but I think this team is more confident shooting now than ever before. Barrett mentioned that they have been practicing shooting more now than any other point in the year and they can tell a difference. That is a scary message to send the rest of the country. The Cardinals need to slow this team down from beyond the arc to stay in the game.
Duke Offense is Incredible
Zion Williamson is a problem for every single team in the country, and he will be a problem for any team in the NBA next season. Before the year started, everyone was talking about Zion the athletic freak, instead of Zion the basketball player.
“R.J. Barrett is better.” Some people still believe that, but don’t get it twisted. No player is making coaches lose their sleep more than Zion Williamson. Zion is definitely an athletic freak, but he is also a very skilled basketball player, which is something that went massively under the radar for a long time. Zion’s most comfortable position on the offensive side of the court is point guard. Think about that. I don’t think he will play point guard, but deep down, that is what he is used to doing because he wasn’t always 6’7 and 285 pounds.
Louisville isn’t small, their most common lineup will play 6’5, 6’7, and 6’11 at the 3-5, but I’m not sure how much it matters. Zion is not always aggressive, so I believe that the bigger players around the rim are the best players to deter him from scoring. Zion is an extremely willing passer and really does not take shots that he doesn’t love. When the lane is open or guarded by a small player, Zion will take more shots, even though I think he could do similar things against players taller than him.
Cardinals vs. Blue Devils Prediction
The line of Duke -8 is a really nice line and is one that really makes you pick a side. I think Duke is a massive favorite to win this game because of their many advantages. Louisville’s leading scorer is a 6’7 forward, who I tend to believe will not thrive in this matchup with all of Duke’s length. So Louisville will need to lock up to some degree to stay close or just shoot really well. Attempting to project shooting is incredibly hard because there is just a small sample size. What I will say is there is no reason to believe that Louisville SHOULD shoot better than normal due to Duke’s size/length/athleticism. All of those things lead me to believe that Duke has enough firepower to run away with this one, so give me the Blue Devils -8.