Louisville Cardinals (14-3, 5-1) At Duke Blue Devils (15-2, 5-1)
Game Time: 6:05 p.m.
Location: Cameron Indoor Stadium: Durham, N.C.
Announcers: Dan Shulman (play-by-play), Jay Bilas (analyst), and Holly Rowe (reporter)
Favorite: Duke by 7
Officials: Ron Groover, Jamie Luckie, John Gaffney
Series: Duke leads 10-6
Last Meeting: Duke won 71-69 on Feb. 12, 2019 in Louisville
Probable Starting Lineups:
Despite coming off a surprise road loss to Clemson Tuesday night, Duke enters Saturday’s showdown against Louisville ranked No. 1 on Ken Pom, No. 3 in the AP poll, and No. 5 in the NET Rankings used by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. The Blue Devils are 5-1 in the ACC, putting them in a first-place tie with U of L and Florida State.
The centerpiece of Duke’s high-octane offense is freshman big man Vernon Carey Jr. The 6’10 center leads the Devils in scoring (17.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.5 rpg) and will almost certainly be a lottery pick in this June’s NBA Draft. While he is a solid shot blocker, Carey does have a tendency to rely on the block and often makes classic freshman mistakes like getting caught ball watching. This is an area where he can be exploited by Steven Enoch on the block or by Malik Williams if he can bring him out to the perimeter. Carey also has struggled a bit offensively this season against opposing centers who are long and more athletic than brawny, another area where Williams could have a huge impact on the game.
The other most well-known Duke player is sophomore point guard Tre Jones, the only returning member of the four-headed freshman monster that carried last year’s team. The engine for this team, Jones is one of two players in Division-I averaging 15.0+ points, 6.0+ assists, 4.0+ rebounds, 2.0+ steals and shooting 45%+ from the field. He’s improved his outside shot a bit from last season (35.7 percent), but he’s still probably a player that Louisville is going to try and make beat them from the perimeter.
Freshman forward Cassius Stanley broke Zion Williamson’s vertical leap record before the start of the season, a fact which isn’t hard to believe when you see him in action.
He’ll be an interesting draw for a guy like Dwayne Sutton who, while a terrific defender, can’t match that level of athleticism. After a hit or miss first couple of months, Stanley has hit his stride in league play. He’s scored 14 or more points in each of Duke’s last four games, and is 5-for-9 from beyond the arc over that stretch, forcing opposing defenders to press up and respect his outside shot.
Louisville should also be worried about the outside shots of Matthew Hurt (40.3 percent from three), Jack White (37.1 percent from three), and if he plays, Joey Baker (43.5 percent from three). Any one of those guys (although Hurt is the guy I’m circling here) has the potential to kill the Cards if they get burned by the same drive and kick offense that Kentucky and Florida State road to victory.
Defensively, Duke has probably overachieved to this point thanks in large part to its perimeter defense. The Blue Devils simply force you to beat them with drives to the basket. Opponents are scoring only 22.9 percent of their points against Coach K’s team via the three-point shot. Only nine teams in the country are allowing a lower percentage. When opposing players are able to get off shots from beyond the arc, they’re making them at only a 30.3 percent clip. Once again, there will be a significant amount of pressure on Louisville’s guards not just to create space to operate, but to make the right decisions after they gain that advantage.
The only area where Duke is really abnormally bad is at the free-throw line, where they shoot just 66.5 percent as a team. That’s only 12 percentage points higher than the rate at which they make their two-point shots.
—Louisville is 1-3 all-time against Duke in games played at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Cards’ only win in Durham came on Jan. 12, 1983.
—Since 2017, Duke is 12-1 in games immediately following a loss. The Blue Devils are also 9-4 against the spread in those games.
—Duke ranks second in the NCAA in scoring margin (+19.8). The Blue Devils are leading the ACC in scoring (83.1; 5th NCAA), field goal percentage (.489; 9th NCAA), and blocked shots (6.4; 5th NCAA).
—Louisville’s allowing only 61.6 points per game, the second best ppg defense in the ACC.
—Duke freshman big man Vernon Carey Jr. is the only player in the ACC shooting better than 60 percent from the field (60.5 percent). He is 22nd nationally in field goal percentage, and ranks fourth in the ACC in scoring (14.6 ppg), fifth in rebounding (8.5 rpg) and fourth in blocks (1.9 bpg).
—Jordan Nwora’s 347 points scored this year are the most by a Louisville player through 17 games over the last 20 seasons. He leads the ACC in scoring at 20.4 ppg, which is also good for 20th in the nation.
—Duke PG Tre Jones is one of just two players nationally averaging 15.0+ points, 6.0+ assists, 4.0+ rebounds, 2.0+ steals and shooting 45%+ from the field. Iowa State sophomore Tyrese Haliburton is the other.
—Louisville has made nine or more three-pointers in a game 10 times this season, including in five of their last nine games.
—Duke will be honoring its 2009-10 national championship team at halftime of Saturday’s game.
—In ACC play, Louisville is shooting a better percent from three (44) than it is from two (42).
—Duke is the only team in the country thank rates in the top five on Ken Pom in both adjusted offensive (3) and defensive (5) efficiency.
—ESPN’s College GameDay will be in Durham for the first episode of its 2020 run.
—Duke has won more games at its current home venue (900 at Cameron Indoor Stadium) than any team in college basketball, leading Penn (Palestra), Vanderbilt (Memorial Gym), Kansas (Allen Fieldhouse) and UCLA (Pauley Pavilion).
—Louisville beat Duke 72-69 in the 1986 NCAA Championship game behind Final Four Most Outstanding Player Pervis Ellison’s 25 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots.
—Louisville’s Steven Enoch has won the opening tip in 16 of the team’s 17 games this season. He lost the tip at the start of overtime against Pitt on Tuesday.
—Louisville has started with at least a 14-3 record through 17 games for the seventh time in the last 10 years.
—Louisville is eighth in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.368), 22nd in scoring margin (+13.1), 29th in rebound margin (+6.6) and 30th in scoring defense (61.6).
—Louisville’s next win will be the 250th of Chris Mack’s coaching career.
—Duke has sold out 464 consecutive games at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The last time Duke did not have a sellout at home was on Nov. 16, 1990, against Boston College. The sellout figure is the longest current streak (by time) in either men’s college basketball or the NBA. The Blue Devils are 423-41 (.911) at home over that 464-game stretch.
—Duke is 2-0 against ranked opponents so far this season. Louisville is 1-2.
—Louisville is 0-1 this season as an underdog.
—Duke is 22nd nationally in offensive rebounds per game, averaging 13.2 per contest. The Blue Devils are rebounding nearly 40 percent of their missed shots (37.2) — the sixth-best percentage in the nation.
—Louisville is 13-0 when leading at halftime this season, and 1-3 when trailing at the break. Their one win in that scenario came Tuesday night at Pitt.
—Duke has connected on at least one three-pointer in 1,076 straight games, the third-longest streak in the nation.
—Louisville has blocked at least one shot in 319 consecutive games.
—Louisville has a 39-13 record during the month of January over the last five years.
—Louisville has won 161 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.
—Louisville has won 152 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.
—Louisville and Duke are two of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 18 seasons (also Kansas and Gonzaga).
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Duke 72, Louisville 64