Big Defensive Clash: 'Under' Our NCAA Basketball Pick In Duke vs. Louisville

Jay Pryce

Friday, February 19, 2016 11:18 PM GMT

Duke & Louisville tip off Saturday afternoon, each a game out of first place in the ACC. The Cardinals' defense may dominate this one after the Blue Devils' lost another to injury last time out.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Under 144 
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

 

No. 20 Duke and No. 18 Louisville tip off Saturday afternoon (12 p.m. ET), each a game out of first place in the ACC. The Cardinals' defense may dominate this one after the Blue Devils' lost another to injury last time out.

 

Duke Blue Devils (20-6 SU, 12-12-1 ATS)
Duke's 74-73 Tobacco Road triumph over No.5 North Carolina on Wednesday as 8-point underdogs made it coach Mike Krzyzewski's seventh straight-up victory over conference opponents as chalk in his last 10 attempts (8-2 against the NCAA basketball odds). Since 2003, in fact, the Blue Devils are 16-6 ATS as away dogs, beating the number by an average of 5.9 points.

Duke shines on offense. The Blue Devils roll out the second most efficient unit in the nation behind Notre Dame, scoring 121.6 points per 100 possessions. All five starters average double-digit points with sophomore guard Grayson Allen leading the pack at 20.7 PPG.

The starting five took a big hit in the upset win over UNC, though. Junior guard Matt Jones, who averages 32.7 minutes per game, went down with a severe ankle injury in the first half and left the arena on crutches. Relying on a six-man rotation since F Amile Jefferson fell to a foot injury in early December, his absence leaves the Blue Devils shallower and looking for rested bodies. The timing couldn't have been worse either, up against the hyper-aggressive Rick Pitino-led defense of the Cardinals.

 

Louisville Cardinals (20-6 SU, 11-11 ATS)
After losing two in a row, Louisville pulled away from Syracuse in the second half of Wednesday night's game with a 56 percent performance from the floor to secure a 72-58 victory. The win gave coach Rick Pitino his 14th straight season with 20 or more.

Guards Trey Lewis (12.3 ppg) and Damion Lee (16.5 ppg), two seniors who transferred to the school this season with the intentions of playing in March Madness but will be unable to partake under Louisville's recent self-imposed ban from postseason play, lead an offense scoring 110.9 points per 100 possessions. On defense, the Cardinals' 90.2 points allowed per 100 possessions is third-most efficient in the nation behind Valparasio and Wichita State. The smothering unit has helped the Cardinals accrue the nation's best average scoring margin at +17.0 points.

The KFC Yum! Center is a house of horrors for ACC fans wishing for high-scoring, entertaining affairs. The UNDER is 1-4 when the Cardinals tip off against a conference foe on their home court with the total score staying a whopping 19.4 points below projections per game. These two combined for 115 points on this floor last season.

Krzyzewski's squads always protect the ball well, and this year's team is no different. Duke's 9.9 turnovers per game ranks ninth nationally. This may cause trouble for the Cardinals offense, as opposed to defense. Generating takeaways helps Louisville create 6.0 extra scoring chances per game, seventh most nationally. In six games against ball-hogging teams, the Cardinals have failed to reach their team total by an average of 4 points per game. The Blue Devils, likewise, have allowed just two teams to go over their projected team total in 11 games against squads generating 13 or more turnovers. Louisville take the ball away 14.3 times per contest.

 

Final Analysis
With Jones out, Duke's scoring may suffer a bit. He lads the team with 144 three-point attempts and is second to Allen with a .41 percent success rate. Couple that with Duke's short-rotation and tired legs may hamper the Blue Devils shooting further. Louisville's defense may dominate in this one. UNDER 144 is the NCAA basketball pick.