Preview: Duke (20-6) v. Louisville (20-6)

The Blue Devils will return to action on Saturday with a road trip to Louisville to face the Cardinals with even less of a margin for error after the injury to Matt Jones.

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS

20-6 Overall, 9-4 Conference

PROJECTED STARTERS

F- 00 Damion Lee (16.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
F- 10 Jaylen Johnson (5.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
C- 32 Chinanu Onuaku (9.7 ppg, 8.6 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 returned for the game in Cameron. In that game he was clearly part of the Duke game plan as the Blue Devils hounded him throughout the contest, holding the Cardinal’s star to just 3-of-15 shooting from the field

Off the bench Louisville got a big lift in Cameron from 6-foot-3 freshman Donovan Mitchell who may move into the starting lineup for this game. He’s scored in double figures in four of the last five games including a 17 point performance against the Blue Devils in Durham.

THE STORYLINES

LAST TIME…

Duke jumped out to an 11 point half-time lead over Louisville before a furious Cardinal rally allowed the team to regain the lead in the second half behind 56 percent shooting after intermission. The key stretch came when Louisville had the ball down 66-62 with about 2 1/2 minutes left. Ray Spalding left a layup short off the iron, Duke's Marshall Plumlee grabbed the rebound and it was at least a two-possession game the rest of the way. Ingram and Matt Jones both made two free throws on the next two possessions before freshman Derryck Thornton hit a jumper in the lane with the shot clock winding down to make it 70-62 with 33 seconds left.

WHAT TO PLAY FOR?

Louisville made news earlier this month by self-imposing a post season ban. The ban will halt a string of nine consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances for the Cardinals. UofL will also not participate in the 2016 ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C. Louisville advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight in three of the last four years and the Cardinals and Michigan State are the only two schools to reach the last four consecutive NCAA Sweet Sixteens.

DUKE HAS ZERO DEPTH

With Matt Jones ruled out of the game against the Cardinals, the Blue Devils will likely play a rotation of just six players on Saturday barring further injury or foul trouble. Duke had already lost team captain Amile Jefferson to a foot injury before Jones rolled his ankle in the win over North Carolina after playing just nine minutes. That injury reduced the Duke rotation to five and the Blue Devils didn’t sub for the final 11 minutes of the game against the Tar Heels. Going forward Duke is expected to play it’s starting five for as long as possible with freshman big Chase Jeter getting spot minutes here and there in relief of the first five. Jeter is averaging just 4.9 minutes per game this season.

Notebook:

- Duke is 5-2 on the road in ACC play this season, the best road record in the league. Since the start of the 1996-97 season, Duke is 112-50 (.691) in ACC road games.

- Duke employs one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks, ranking 15th in the NCAA in scoring offense (83.1) and second the country in adjusted offensive efficiency (121.6).

- Duke features two of the top five scorers in ACC play, as Grayson Allen (20.5) ranks second and Brandon Ingram (19.0) is fifth in league play.

- Allen is on pace to become just the ninth player to lead Duke in both scoring and assists in a season. Duke is unbeaten in his team-high 12 games this season with 20-plus points and 12-1 this season when he leads the team in scoring.

- Duke ranks 10th nationally in turnover average (10.0) and 10th in offensive turnover percentage (14.5). Duke’s primary ballhandlers have combined for a 1.61 assist-to-turnover ratio.

They Said It:

"Duke is a very unusual team to play against because they can put four shooters on the floor and you have to be careful where you help. You have to keep them on the sideline and out of the middle and that’s tough to do.” - Rick Pitino

The Prediction

The Cardinals had a lot of trouble dealing with Duke in Cameron and the reverse could very well be true in the rematch in Louisville. Duke has won five straight games and needs to continue winning in order to secure a double bye in the upcoming ACC Tournament. In the first game Brandon Ingram played 40 minutes while Grayson Allen logged 39. This time around both will likely log close to 40 minutes along with Derryck Thornton and Luke Kennard. Marshall Plumlee will likely do the same with Chase Jeter soaking up any other available time. In short, Duke’s going to be in for one of its biggest challenges of the season. As of Saturday morning Duke is a seven point underdog and while we expect the Blue Devils to put up a terrific fight, the lack of depth and the toughness of the opponent and the environment could prove to be too much to overcome. Duke will likely fight (as has become a hallmark of this team), but winning on the road against a motivated and hostile Cardinal team with five players may prove to be too much.

Duke - 71
Louisville - 76


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