Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
— Louisville Basketball (@LouisvilleMBB) March 9, 2021
Opening Vegas Line: Duke -2.0 t141.0
The Louisville men’s basketball team begins its postseason on Wednesday night against Duke in the second round of the 2021 ACC Tournament. Louisville earned the 7-seed after going 13-6 in the regular season with an 8-5 conference record. Duke enters the matchup at 12-11 as the 10-seed after going 9-9 in the ACC. The Blue Devils advanced after a first round victory over Boston College on Tuesday afternoon.
Since joining the ACC in 2014-2015, Louisville has participated in four conference tournaments with a 2-4 record. The Cards have never won more than one game in an ACC Tournament. Their lone conference tournament matchup with Duke came in an 81-77 loss in the 2017 quarterfinals.
Louisville and Duke have played twice this season, with both games resulting in a close Cardinal victory. In the first matchup on Jan. 23, Carlik Jones carried the Cards on his back with a 24-point performance in the 70-65 win. Jones and Jae’Lyn Withers scored all, but five of Louisville’s second half points in the win.
In the second matchup less than two weeks ago on Feb. 27, Louisville pulled out an OT thriller by a score of 80-73 at Cameron Indoor. Matthew Hurt accounted for over half of Duke’s scoring, putting up 37 points and 7 rebounds in his team’s loss. Carlik Jones shined once again with 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. This time he had some help from both Samuell Williamson (14 pts. 12 reb.) and Jae’Lyn Withers (16 pts. 9 reb.)
Both of Louisville’s games with Duke have been some of the most evenly matched contests it has played all season. In the first matchup, nether side led by more than 6 points the entire way, and it went back and forth for the entirety of the second half. In the rematch, Duke erased a 12-point deficit early in the second half to force overtime at home before running out of gas in the extra period.
The common theme in both games was the individual performances of Matthew Hurt and Carlik Jones. Hurt arguably has a larger load to carry for his respective team, and did so impressively in both games. The main advantage for the Cards has been guard play, with Carlik Jones ability to score in the backcourt and David Johnson able to switch on defense.
You could argue that Louisville was clearly the better team in both games considering the results. That being said, Duke probably feels they were only a few bounces away from being 2-0 against the Cards this season. At this point, you can probably expect Matthew Hurt to have a big night on Wednesday. The question is whether or not he can get some help from his teammates.
Both matchups were won in the half court by Louisville. If you take away the first 20 minutes from the most recent game, the Cards’ chronic offensive troubles were on full display for multiple segments against Duke this season. The difference was Carlik Jones late in the game.
For Duke, they are on the outside of the NCAA tournament bubble and likely need more than just a win against Louisville on Wednesday to keep their hopes alive. Desperate teams have a way of putting together some special performances in big games, and we know what this Duke team is capable of in spite of its record.
Louisville should be in the tournament field, but an early loss would leave the entire weekend for other teams to pass them by on the seed list. A win on Wednesday would put the Cards in the quarterfinals with the opportunity to add multiple quadrant-1 wins to their resume before Sunday.
With serious NCAA Tournament implications on the line, this is a game that will be on just about everyone’s radar early Wednesday night. After two incredibly close losses in the regular season, Duke will think that they are due for a win against this Louisville team. For the Cards, they know what it takes to win against this opponent and will feel like they can take care of business and advance.
New season starts now 😤 pic.twitter.com/JT5KAJBjQe
— Louisville Basketball (@LouisvilleMBB) March 10, 2021
Two of the most storied programs in the sport rarely, if ever, meet this early in a conference tournament, but that’s where we are at in this wacky season. With a spot in the quarterfinals on the line, who will have what it takes to survive and advance?
Louisville 75 Duke 74