Preview: Duke (17-6) v. Louisville (19-4)

Duke returns to action on Monday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium against a motivated Louisville team looking to move up in the league standings.

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS

19-4 Overall, 7-2 Conference 

PROJECTED STARTERS

F- 00 Damion Lee (17.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
F- 10 Jaylen Johnson (5.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
C- 32 Chinanu Onuaku (10.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg)
G- 02 Quentin Snider (9.6 ppg, 3.7 apg)
G- 03 Trey Lewis (12.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg)

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STAR WATCH

Fifth year senior Damion Lee has been a dynamic scorer throughout his career.  He was the county’s fourth leading scorer a season ago for Drexel before transferring to Louisville this past off-season.  Lee bruised his knee in the win over North Carolina and was held out of the game against Boston College to rest, but is expected to return for Monday’s game in Cameron. Lee has scored more than 20 points seven times this season.   

In the middle the Cardinals are getting strong play from big man Chinanu Onuaku who has upped his game since Louisville began league play.  The 6-foot-10, 240 pound sophomore is third in the ACC in rebounding (10.2 rpg) and blocked shots (1.9 bpg) while shooting 61.8 percent from the field.  Much of that success can be traced to his first six ACC games in which he recorded six double-doubles.

THE STORYLINES

FIRST TIME 

This is the first time the Cardinals have visited Cameron Indoor Stadium as a member of the ACC.  It’s been 33 years since Louisville made the trip to Durham.  This is also the first time that head coach Rick Pitino has coached a team in one of college basketball’s most treasured venues.  

WHAT TO PLAY FOR?

Louisville made news this week by imposing a self-imposed post-season ban.  Such a decision could have broken a team’s spirit, but it appears the Cardinals have rallied around themselves.  In their next game out Louisville dismantled Boston College and have a chance to finish number one in the ACC Regular Season race if they continue to win.   

OFFENSE VERSUS DEFENSE

Duke has a very offense.  One of the best in the country.  On Monday the Blue Devils will be tested in a big way by a Louisville team ranking seventh in the nation in field goal percentage defense (.376), fourth in scoring defense (59.8 points), ninth in rebound margin (+9.9), 29th in turnover margin (+2.8) and 35th in blocked shots (5.0). UofL is second in the ACC in steals (7.4) while leading the league in scoring margin, scoring defense, field goal percentage defense, and rebounding margin.

Notebook:

- Duke leads the NCAA with an .828 (202-42) winning percentage since the start of the 2009- 10 season and ranks third nationally with a .946 (106-6) home winnning percentage this decade.

- Duke employs one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks, ranking fifth in the NCAA in scoring offense (84.8) and second the country in adjusted offensive efficiency (122.9).

- Duke features two of the top four scorers in ACC play, as Grayson Allen (21.0) ranks second and Brandon Ingram (18.4) is fourth in league play. 

- Luke Kennard leads the nation with a .922 free throw percentage, which would set a new Duke freshman record. Duke has made 420 free throws this season, the eighth-most among major conference teams.

- Duke ranks 10th nationally in turnover average (10.0) and seventh in offensive turnover percentage (14.4). Matt Jones leads Duke with a 2.26 assist-to-turnover ratio.

They Said It:

"This is a punishment I thought would never happen this season. This is a decision that's as harsh as anything I've seen." - Rick Pitino

The Prediction

Louisville had a chance to fold when the sanctions came down.  Instead the Cardinals appear to have rallied and are looking to finish their season on a high note.  They can’t win the ACC Tournament, but they can win the regular season title.  And, Louisville poses a lot of match-up problems for Duke.  The Cardinals don’t give up easy shots and they can shut down opponents.   In addition the Cardinals are among the top 10 teams in the country in rebounding margin (+9.9).  If Duke is going to win, they’ll need to play better than they did against NC State.  We’d look for Brandon Ingram to break out of his shooting slump and for Duke to pick up a win that’ll solidify some momentum heading into he most dangerous stretch of the schedule. 

Duke - 74
Louisville - 70


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