Pregame Breakdown: Louisville at Duke

The 11th ranked Louisville Cardinals end their three game road trip with a matchup at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night. Louisville sits at 14-3 and 5-1 in the ACC after winning three straight. Duke is coming off a loss to Clemson this week; the Blue Devils are 15-2 and 5-1.

Duke leads the all time series 10-6. Louisville is 1-3 in Durham and 0-2 on the road since joining the ACC. Last season, Duke erased a 23 point 2nd half deficit at the KFC Yum! Center in a 71-69 win. It was a game that really exposed Louisville and set the tone for the rest of the season.

Duke has maybe the most underrated player in the nation. Vernon Carey is a 5-star freshman averaging 17.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. He’s shooting over 60 percent from the field. Carey shoots only 59.1 percent from the free throw line, but he draws fouls as often as anyone in the country.

Sophomore point guard Tre Jones averages 15.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game. Duke is one of the best all-around shooting and scoring teams in the nation. Five players are shooting over 40 percent from three-point range.

Duke will likely try to pressure Louisville on the ball and exploit their struggles at the point guard position. Chris Mack has given freshman David Johnson more time over the past couple weeks. That will probably continue, but Fresh Kimble will start. The Cards have yet to figure out who they are offensively. Aside from Jordan Nwora, there is nothing consistent about Louisville’s offense. Duke forces turnovers and specifically gets steals at a high rate. Tre Jones is one of the best on ball defenders in the entire country. The same thing has been said all year, but this game will probably be won or lost by Louisville based on the play of its backcourt.

These are two completely different teams compared to the two that met last February. The formula to beat Louisville is similar though. Duke forced 17 turnovers and got 12 steals in the win last year. Louisville got hot early, but could not put together a complete offensive performance. The Cards have plenty to worry about defensively, but if they cannot change something on offense it won’t matter.

Louisville is in good shape at 14-3 and 5-1 in the ACC. They only have one truly good win though, and even that one does not look as great now. With the lack of depth in the conference this season, games against ranked teams are not going to be as frequent. Is this the night that Louisville figures it out against a top team, or will we see another troubling performance against highly ranked competition?

The game tips at 6:00 p.m. ET and will be televised live on ESPN.

Prediction:

Duke 78  Louisville 70

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