Louisville Cardinals (9-3, 4-2) vs. Duke Blue Devils (5-4, 3-2)
Game Time: 4:02 p.m.
Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.
Favorite: Louisville by 2.5
Officials: Ron Groover, Ted Valentine, John Gaffney
Series: Duke leads, 10-7
Last Meeting: Louisville won, 79-73, on Jan. 18, 2020 in Durham
Probable Starting Lineups:
Duke’s Season to Date:
Like Louisville, Duke enters Saturday’s game riding a two-game conference losing streak. While both teams could obviously use a victory to get off the side, the Blue Devils might be a tad more desperate to get things going than the Cardinals. Mike Krzyzewski’s team sits all the way down at No. 93 in the current NET Rankings, and owns zero wins over any team ranked better than 85th on Ken Pom.
Even so, there seems to be more hope surrounding the idea of this Duke team being able to turn things around enough to make than the NCAA tournament than there is with a few of their struggling blue-blood brethren. The primary reason is obvious: The Blue Devils, per usual, are fairly loaded with next level talent.
Leading the way for this Duke team is Matthew Hurt. The 6’9 sophomore forward currently ranks second in the ACC in scoring at 18.9 points per game, third in rebounding (8.2 rpg), and seventh in field goal percentage (51.6 percent). He is also second in conference-only scoring (18.8 ppg) and fourth in conference-only rebounding (8.2 rpg).
Hurt’s height allows him to get his shot off from virtually any spot on the floor. His combination of size and instincts also allow him to be one of the best rebounders in the ACC. Where he falls short is on the defensive end, and his lack of athleticism is one of the biggest reasons why Duke has been playing more zone recently and why we’re likely to see a steady dose of the defense on Saturday.
Not lacking in athleticism is freshman Jalen Johnson, a likely lottery pick in this spring’s NBA draft. Johnson has missed most of the last month because of a foot injury, but is coming arguably his best performance of the season Tuesday night against Pitt. The 6’9 forward came off the bench to score 24 points, grab 15 rebounds, hand out seven assists and block four shots.
The last decade of college basketball has only seen three performances where a player has at least 15 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. Johnson has two of those efforts, and he’s only played six college games. He’s (clearly) a supremely gifted player, but like Hurt, he’s struggled a bit defensively. Simplifying things and putting him at the back end of a zone where he can focus on blocking shots and little else has helped.
Freshman point guard DJ Steward is Duke’s second-leading scorer at 13.1 ppg, but he’s on a bit of a cold streak heading into Saturday’s game. Steward has attempted at least six three-pointers in each of his las four games, but he’s knocked down just six of his last 28 attempts from beyond the arc. He’s a capable ballhandler and a good enough passer, but those aren’t the strongest parts of his game.
Also a bit cold from deep at the moment is fellow freshman guard Jeremy Roach. Roach was 0-for-7 from three against Pitt, and has misfired on 19 of his last 23 attempts from beyond the arc. Krzyzewski has wanted Roach to play with more aggression and make more of an attempt to get to the rim. He has not done that effectively in any of Duke’s last three games. Like Johnson and Steward, Roach has all the natural gifts necessary to be a star in college, he’s just figuring out how to put all the pieces together.
A name that should be familiar to Louisville fans is Jordan Goldwire. The senior point guard isn’t going to overwhelm you with offensive skill, but instincts and defensive prowess have made him a stalwart in the Blue Devil starting lineup. Goldwire leads the ACC in steals (2.6), is third in assist/turnover ratio (+2.43), and seventh in assists (3.8). He’ll swipe at the ball whenever David Johnson, Carlik Jones or anyone else make a hard drive to the basket.
A large jump was expected from 6’5 sophomore forward Wendell Moore, but so far, Moore’s numbers look almost identical to what they were a year ago. He is, however, coming off maybe his most complete performance of the season, a 15-point effort against Pitt where he saw the floor for 31 minutes.
Former top Louisville target Jaemyn Brakefield started this season hot but has seen his role diminish as the year has gone on. He played just three minutes in the loss to Pitt. Joey Baker — known around these parts as the man who thought about fighting Darius Perry for a split second and then thought better of it — is the only other Blue Devil who sees consistent minutes.
What Duke does do well: Score in transition, create steals, block shots, rebound on both ends,
—Louisville has a 58-17 record in conference home games over the last nine years (.773).
—Since 2017, Duke is 16-4 in games immediately following a loss. They’re currently riding just their third two-game losing streak over that span. The other occurrence came last year after Louisville’s win at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
—Duke has not lost three consecutive games since a stretch from Jan. 13-18, 2016.
—Louisville has started with a 9-3 record or better for each of the last 11 years. The Cardinals have opened with a 4-2 or better conference record for the ninth time in the last 11 years, with the two exceptions being its 2012 Final Four (2-4) and 2013 National Championship (3-3) seasons.
—Carlik Jones is the only player in the ACC to rank among the top five in scoring (17.9 ppg, 3rd in the ACC) and assists (4.7 apg/3rd). Jones has 94 career double-figure scoring efforts, including the last 34 consecutive games (all 11 this year).
—Jae’Lyn Withers has made 71.8 percent of his shots over his last six games (28-of-39). He has produced double-doubles in two of his last four games. He is the Cardinals’ rebounding leader and ranks second among ACC freshman (7.3 rpg, ninth in the ACC), averaging 10.3 points while shooting a team-best 61.7 percent from the field.
—Duke’s Matthew Hurt ranks second in the ACC in scoring at 18.9 points per game, third in rebounding (8.2), and seventh in field goal percentage (.516).
—Blue Devil Jordan Goldwire leads the ACC in steals (2.6 spg), is third in assist/turnover ratio (+2.43), and seventh in assists (3.8 apg).
—Duke’s last visit to Louisville produced the second-largest comeback in program history as the Blue Devils came from 23 points down (59-36) with 9:05 remaining to win 71-69 on Feb. 12, 2019.
—Only three times in at least the last 10 seasons has a power conference player logged a game with 15+ points, 15+ rebounds, 5+ assists and 4+ blocked shots — Duke freshman Jalen Johnson has two of those three occurrences.
—Duke is 9-8 all-time when playing on Jan. 23, including a 5-5 record in road games on that date.
—Cardinal guard Josh Nickelberry and Duke forward Joey Baker were teammates for two seasons at Trinity Christian High School before Nickelberry moved to Northwood Temple Academy for his final two prep years.
—Duke has connected on at least one three-pointer in 1,099 straight games, the second-longest streak in the nation. UNLV owns the longest streak at 1,113 straight games.
—With Duke falling from the AP Top 25 this week, it snaps a streak of 91 consecutive polls that the Blue Devils had been ranked, which was the nation’s second-longest active streak. Coach K’s squad is unranked for the first time since the week of Feb. 8, 2016.
—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 is 3-5 in ACC games against Duke.
—Since 2004, Louisville is 126-0 when leading by more than 10 points at halftime.
—Louisville is 25-1 over the last two seasons when scoring at least 71 points, including 7-1 this season. The lone loss came last week at Miami.
—Louisville has won 162 consecutive games when holding an opponent under 50 points.
—Louisville has won 155 consecutive games when scoring at least 85 points in regulation.
—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games on the court in each of the last 18 seasons. Gonzaga, Duke and Kansas are the others.
Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 70, Duke 69