Match-up Factors Speak For 'Over' in Duke vs Louisville ACC Showdown

Rainman M.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018 12:45 PM UTC

Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018 12:45 PM UTC

No. 5 Duke hosts Louisville tonight at 9 ET on ESPN. The Blue Devils are favored by 11.5 and the game total is set at 157.  The Cardinals are desperate for a big win with which to improve its tournament resume. Can they challenge Duke?

Louisville Cardinals (18-9 SU, 13-11-1 ATS) at No 5. Duke Blue Devils (22-5 SU, 16-10 ATS)

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: 'Over' 157Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker

Both offenses like to push tempo and will be able to tonight. Louisville's offense averages the ACC's shortest possession length, Duke's the second-shortest.

The Blue Devils are notoriously vulnerable to turnovers. They struggle to find a ball-secure point guard--Trevon Duval and Grayson Allen allow 2+ turnovers per game-- and rank 8th in the ACC in turnover percentage allowed. For example, St. Johns forced 18 turnovers and almost achieved a season-high with 81 points in its 81-77 win vs Duke on February 3rd. NC State, whose turnover statistics rank slightly lower than those of Louisville, forced 16 turnovers and scored 96 points in its 11-point win on January 6th vs Duke. The Wolfpack only attempted 14 threes, but scored tremendously inside the arc because its transition offense was able to overwhelm Duke's otherwise stout interior defense.

Turnovers will be important for Lousville's scoring because of how they encourage its transition offense. Louisville ranks second in the ACC both in turnovers and steal percentage. In two of three ACC games in which the Cardinals scored 90+ points, they also achieved 19+ turnovers.

While Louisville can score quickly with turnovers, it can also surrender quick points due to poor defensive rebounding. Duke won't suffer many one-and-done drives, but can instead achieve many put-backs as long as Louisville continues its atrocious defensive rebounding, which has been a season-long problem, from its early-season near-upset vs Albany through its recent blowout against UNC. UL ranks 12th in the ACC in defensive rebounding percentage and 293rd nationally. Duke is the ACC's best offensive rebounding team. Center Wendell Carter ranks 44th in the category.

Louisville's poor defensive rebounding is one reason that its last four opponents have shot at least 45%. Louisville's perimeter defense is statistically average. The Cardinals have contested the three well against teams like Notre Dame, who are unbalanced. But they have struggled against teams who both excel inside the arc and can be dangerous from three, allowing 90+ to UNC this past Saturday, who converted twelve threes, 80+ at VT and 70+ at UVA, both of whom shoot the three well. Louisville's defense has been weakest on the road, where its over-under is a solid 5-1 in conference play.

Balanced scoring and good ball movement are lethal to Louisville's defense and Duke ranks first in the ACC in three-point shooting percentage partly because it achieves open shots through its transition offense, its dribble penetration and other ways. Forward Gary Trent is the ACC's top three-point shooter, converting 49.5% of his attempts in conference play. Check out how Duke dropped 83 at Miami, whose perimeter defense ranks similarly to that of Louisville:

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The Cards' three-point shooting is no slouch, either. Louisville is the ACC's second-best in the category, vastly improving its overall number, because the likes of guards Quentin Snider and Ryan McMahon and forward Deng Adel have excelled in conference play. Snider is the hottest of the bunch, shooting 7-for-11 from three in the past two games and 44.1% in conference play. Duke's defensive lapses and inconsistency will allow Louisville to get open looks.

Regarding injuries, forward Marvin Bagley completes over 60% inside the arc partly because he ranks 24th in offensive rebounding. He is listed as 'questionable' today. Duke's offense would benefit more if he played, but Louisville's offense would also be stronger inside the arc if he did not.

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