Louisville vs Duke
Louisville has had a whirlwind of a week. They just found out yesterday that the NCAA was going to vacate their 2013 national championship as well as their Final Four appearance in 2012. Louisville also has to pay back the NCAA their revenue share from 2012-2015 and all their wins have been vacated from that time span. Real rough week for a team that has already been through a lot this season. They have lost their head coach, lost recruits for next season, lost players for this season and haven’t played well recently.
Duke has been trending in the opposite direction. It seems that every year, Duke falls into a lull in January and then their star players start to play like star players in the middle of February to send Duke on a hot streak rolling into the tournament. Grayson Allen has regained his star form and has contributed 20 or more points in 2 out of the last three games, all of which Duke has won. In their previous two losses before their 3 game winning streak, Allen had under ten points.
Duke has the one of the best offenses in the nation, averaging 87.4 points per game as well as 17.9 assists per game. This tells me that Duke can move the ball around and create high percentage shots. They shoot the ball a lot and shoot the ball very well. Gary Trent Jr and Grayson Allen have unleashed a three point barrage this season, accounting for 62.5% of the teams three point field goals made this season. The three ball, coupled with the great offensive play from Marvin Bagley has helped Duke stay near the top of the rankings all season. Bagley is a fantastic athlete that leads the team in scoring and rebounding. Bagley has not played in any of Duke’s last three wins. It’s uncertain if he will suit up in this one. Duke will also hold an advantage on the boards in this one, ranking second in the nation with 42.1 rebounds per game. This can be attributed to Wendell Carter Jr and Marvin Bagley, both average around 10 per game and should get much more than ten in this matchup with Louisville. The only problem Duke has had this year is their defense. They like to play run and gun on offense, but often lack getting back in transition on defense.
Louisville has had a distraction looming over their head for the whole season and it has been reflected in their play as of late. Louisville was on a roll in December and early January and have lately fallen apart. It’s sad to see, but the Cardinals are hoping to shock Duke in Cameron Indoor and regain some momentum before the ACC tournament. The success that Louisville has had this year has come when they play basketball as a true team. The Cardinals have relied on Deng Adel and Quinten Snider to be the main sources of offense this season. Both are two of three players on Louisville that have at least 300 points this season. The other player, Ray Spalding, has been Louisville’s most efficient player on offense this season. He has the least amount of minutes among the top three scorers and the highest field goal percentage (53.6%). He attributes 9 rebound per game on a team that struggles on the boards. This is going to be a rough matchup for Louisville; their weaknesses are Duke’s strengths. Louisville will have to try and slow down the Duke offense and take control of the game early in the first half.
Keys to the game
Duke: Grayson Allen scores over 20 points. Allen has become the focus of the offense with Marvin Bagley out. This has fared well for Duke and they have won their last three games, even without the talented Freshman. Allen will need to establish himself early in the game as the primary scorer for Duke and that will open up his teammates for some high percentage shots. A pick and roll game with Wendell Carter Jr will come into play in the second half if Louisville starts to overplay Allen.
Louisville: Limit Duke on the offensive glass. Duke gets around 14 offensive rebounds per game, which more than half the time leads to second chance points. This is part of why they are second in the country in points per game. Louisville is going to need Anas Mahmoud, Ray Spalding and Deng Adel to step up and grab some boards on defense. Between the three of them, the top three rebounders on Louisville, they average 19 rebounds per game. The two top rebounders on Duke average 20 per game themselves. This will be a tough task for Louisville, but if they can achieve it, they should slow down Duke’s offense.
Louisville is going to come into this game extremely distracted. Their aren’t players left on the team from the 2013 National Championship or 2012 Final Four, but seeing the banners come down in their own gym definitely had to have some effect on this team. Cameron Indoor stadium is one of the hardest places to play in the country due to the Cameron Crazies. I don’t expect them to take Louisville’s situation lightly and will likely berate the Cardinals the whole game and get into their heads. Duke should win this game easily and continue their roll into the ACC tournament. Duke is one of the favorites to cut down the nets at the end of the season and should show their dominance over their last four games of the regular season.