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Wednesday afternoon Cardinal news and notes

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Rhett is beyond pumped to finally experience his first Cards ACC tournament game.

—Spread check: Duke by 2.5.

NET Rankings Update: No. 52 (down one).

—Go time.

—The U of L baseball team got back in the win column with an 8-3 win over Murray State Tuesday afternoon.

—ESPN’s latest “best available” NBA draft rankings have Carlik Jones at No. 54 and David Johnson at No. 55. This could be a crucial couple of weeks for DJ, who has been slipping a bit in the eyes of some NBA draft gurus recently.

—The Duke Chronicle says that Wednesday night is an opportunity not just for the Blue Devils to extend their season, but to end their woes against Louisville.

—BallDurham says the key to Duke avoiding its third loss this year to the Cards is winning the battle of the backcourt.

For as good as Matthew Hurt was for Duke, 37 points, in its second meeting with Louisville, Carlik Jones was better for the Cards.

Duke had no answer for the senior guard as he consistently made clutch plays at the end of regulation and in overtime to give Louisville the victory.

Jones finished with 25 points, six rebounds, four assists, and two steals on 9-of-18 shooting and drilling his only three-point attempt.

As a group, the Louisville guards dominated the Duke guards as sophomore Samuell Williamson finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds on 5-of-7 shooting while David Johnson showed some struggles with just nine points on 4-of-11 shooting, but not enough to significantly hurt the Cardinals.

Duke’s guard trio of Jeremy Roach, DJ Steward, and Jordan Goldwire had a combined 12 points on 3-of-21 shooting from the field and 1-of-10 from three-point range, with eight fouls and nine turnovers.

On the contrary, the trio had 37 points on 14-of-24 shooting in Duke’s win over Boston College on Tuesday afternoon.

Not a coincidence that the Blue Devils lose when those three play poorly and win when the trio plays well.

If Duke wants to defeat Louisville and keep its hopes of the NCAA Tournament alive, it has to win the guard battle and watch everything else fall into place.

—Louisville native Justin Powell is transferring from Auburn, and has already heard from the Cards, Kentucky and Virginia. The sharp-shooting freshman who played for David Levitch at North Oldham would be a monster addition for Chris Mack.

—The U of L men’s soccer newsletter for March is out.

—Joe Lunardi says win or lose tonight, Louisville is in the field of 68. That makes me even less confident about our lock status than I was before.

—After storming back to beat BYU by 10 last night, Gonzaga will become the 20th team in college basketball history to enter the NCAA tournament with an unblemished. Only eight of the previous 19 teams have gone on to cut down the nets.

The Zags also became the first team in 60 years to win 23 consecutive games by double digits.

—Former NCAA VP Mark Lewis and five other ex staffers have filed an amicus brief in support of college athletes challenging their earning power before the Supreme Court. They argue that the NCAA has shifted its focus to “generating profits for itself and its members.’’

—Adam Rowe of The Devils Den thinks Duke gets the job done tonight.

PREDICTION

Three straight losses to Louisville, including two already this regular season, would lead many to expect that Duke will suffer a defeat tonight at 6:30PM when these two teams matchup in the ACC Tournament Quarterfinals. But when the odds were released by Las Vegas last night, the Blue Devils were favored by two points. KenPom.com predicts a one-point Duke win, and ESPN’s BPI expects Duke to advance to the tournament semifinals as well.

One reason for the odds tilting in Duke’s favor? Cardinals’ big man Malik Williams is done for the year, limiting an already thin Louisville roster (they played just seven guys in the game in Cameron) and nullifying one of the Blue Devils’ biggest advantages in recent games - center Mark Williams’ emergent play.

The Cardinals’ front line now caps out at 6’8” tall, which should allow Mark Williams to gain an advantage down low. As we saw in the previous game between these two teams, Chris Mack was forced to rotate one of his big defenders off Matthew Hurt and down to take on Williams, allowing Hurt to go off for a career high 37 points. If they had gotten much of anything from their two point guards - Jordan Goldwire and Jeremy Roach combined for four points on 1-8 shooting - the game and the last stretch of the season would have ended much differently.

Against Boston College in the tournament’s first round, Goldwire found a shooting stroke he has never shown in his four years in Durham, knocking down a career high four three-points to score in double digits for the first time since January 26th. If he can carry over even a little bit of that magic, and DJ Steward has a similar game to his 17-point outburst in the first round, it will help supplement what is already a big advantage among the post players - Williams and Hurt.

I’ve been wrong the last two games making predictions in this series, so here goes nothing.

72 Duke

70 Louisville

—Louisville Report serves up its preview of tonight’s game.

—The U of L softball team rolled past Bellarmine, 8-1, on Tuesday.

—Cardinal catcher Henry Davis is on the 2021 Buster Posey National Collegiate Catcher of the Year Award watch list.

—A movie about the legendary Kentucky Cocaine Bear is in the works.

—Scotty Davenport is a finalist for the Hugh Durham Award, which honors the top mid-major coach in Division-I.

—Georgia Southern safety transfer Kenderick Duncan continues to impress during his first spring practice run at U of L.

—David Cobb of CBS looks at the winners and losers from a fun Tuesday of conference tournament action.

—It was a surprise yesterday when Ryan Harwell, Louisville’s starting punter last season, announced he was entering the transfer portal. An hour later we found out that the Cards had taken a commitment from Australian punter Mark Vassett.

Vassett is a product of Prokick Australia, which has trained six of the last eight Ray Guy Award (top punter in college football) winners.

So, that’s exciting.

Also exciting is the fact that we are now officially Australia’s college football team.

Officially.

—Brian Geisinger of ACCSports.com have a very good, very in-depth Louisville-Duke preview.

—Carlik Jones has spent this entire season showing college recruiters how wrong they were five years ago.

—Duke freshman guard DJ Steward says defense and rebounding are the keys for the Blue Devils to ensure that round three against Louisville goes differently than rounds one and two.

Unusually playing in the first round of the ACC Tournament, the Duke Blue Devils advanced to a second round game against Louisville with an 86-51 win over Boston College in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Tuesday evening. Ahead of the Blue Devils’ third matchup with the Cardinals, freshman guard DJ Steward outlined what Duke needs to accomplish in order to avoid going 0-3 against Louisville this year.

“We’ve got to defend and rebound,” Steward said on the ACC Network following the game. “They’ve got really good players, really athletic, they’re long. Carlik Jones, he’s a great player and we’ve got to be aware of him at all times, and just stay locked in for all 40 minutes.”

Duke first saw Louisville in late January at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, but couldn’t seem to do either of those two things all that well. The Cardinals scored 70 points in the game, hit 46% of their shots, 37.5% from the outside, and out-rebounded the Blue Devils by 12. When Louisville came to Cameron Indoor Stadium in late February, the two teams shot nearly the exact same percentage, but Louisville’s 36 first half points gave it a huge edge in the game and the eight-rebound advantage helped give the Cardinals the seven-point advantage in an 80-73 overtime win.

The other thing that Duke will need to accomplish is limiting Jones. In the first matchup of the two teams, Jones scored a team-high 24 points, dished out five assists and three rebounds. In the second battle, Jones scored 25 points, grabbed six rebounds and was responsible for four of the team’s 12 assists. Making sure Jones doesn’t dominate the game will be huge for the Blue Devils.

—Cardinal Authority has an updated look at the U of L hoops recruiting targets from the class of 2023.

—Duke Basketball Report has a quick write-up on tonight’s big matchup.

—And finally, beat Duke.