It's not being called Super Saturday for nothing as 21 of the 25 teams on the NCAA basketball betting schedule, including a huge ACC class at Virginia between the Cavaliers and Duke.
It's always going to be a big game when a couple of top 10 teams meet, especially when Duke is one of those teams. Saturday's clash between the Blue Devils and Virginia Cavaliers is even bigger now, however, after Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski dropped a bombshell this week by dismissing Rasheed Sulaimon from the team.
Add in Duke coming off its third conference loss and beginning to sink back in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings while Virginia is looking to keep its perfect record intact, and all of the ingredients are there for a real barnburner Saturday night when ESPN begins rolling the cameras inside John Paul Jones Arena at 7 PM (ET).
Virginia has stuck overnight as 6 point chalk, and SBR's live college basketball odds will have a total as soon as it comes out.
This is the only scheduled meeting between the Dookies and Cavs this season. They split last year's contests, Virginia picking up its victory in the ACC Championship and covering both games while each contest had just enough to cash for 'over' bettors.
The Cavaliers won the last get-together in Charlottesville, Duke's most recent win on UVa's home floor a 56-41 decision in February 2011. Four of the last five played in Virginia never made it past the closing totals.
Blue Devils Lose More Defense Than Offense With Sulaimon Gone
No specifics were given for why Duke (17-3 straight up, 11-9 against the spread) chose to suspend Sulaimon from the team, but Coach K called it "an accumulation of a whole lot of residue" when making the announcement on Thursday. A starter the past two seasons, the 6-5 guard had been relegated to a reserve role this year and played just 12 minutes while scoring only three points in Wednesday's loss at Notre Dame.
Where his absence could hurt the Blue Devils is on defense, something they've been lacking this season. Sulaimon was also called on to relieve freshman Tyus Jones on the point from time to time, and Krzyzewski may now have to turn to Quinn Jones in that role at times, which could diminish Cook's contributions as the top 3-point threat.
Duke was already a little thin off the bench, especially when it came to someone sparking the team offensively. The loss this week at Notre Dame might have been partially attributed to a hangover from the victory at St. John's last Sunday, Krzyzewski's 1,000th as a college head coach. The Blue Devils got a monster game out of freshman Jahlil Okafor, 22 points and 17 boards to give him five double-doubles in conference play, but shot just 10-of-20 from the free throw line in the 77-73 setback.
Wahoos Begin 3-Game Run Against Ranked Teams
Virginia (19-0 SU, 12-5 ATS) might have been caught looking ahead to this game this past Sunday when the Cavaliers traveled to Blacksburg to face in-state rival Virginia Tech. Tony Bennett's troops went more than nine minutes in the second half without scoring, but put together a 12-0 run at one point to avoid the upset with a 50-47 final that never came close to beating the -16½ NCAA basketball odds makers placed on the Cavs.
The schedule isn't going to get any easier for Virginia after taking on Duke; the Cavaliers will only get a day off before a roadie at North Carolina on Monday, then come back home to host Louisville a week from now.
I was wrong about Duke a couple of weeks ago when they were down following 2-straight losses, catching Louisville on an off day and the Blue Devils actually putting forth a good defensive effort. I won't make that mistake today with my free NCAA basketball pick on Coach K's kids plus the points.
Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Duke +6 at 5Dimes
Season: 37-32 (+1.80)