No. 13 Louisville Cardinals at Duke Blue Devils
Time: 6 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: DUK -3.5
The Louisville Cardinals are 19-4 and sit at 1st place in the ACC. Louisville will travel to Duke to face the 17-6 Blue Devils.
Duke is favored by 3.5 points in the game which will air at 6 PM Central on ESPN.
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Louisville has won six of its past seven games and it most recently knocked off Boston College 79-47 on Saturday night. More impressive was Louisville’s 71-65 over then-No. 2 North Carolina to snap the Tar Heel’s 12-game winning streak. The Cardinals got 24 points, five rebounds and five assists from forward Damion Lee. Lee hit 8 of 12 from the field and 4 of 7 from three-point range. Chinanu Onuaku had 12 points, 10 rebounds and two assists in just 23 minutes of play. Donovan Mitchell came off the bench to score 10 points in 18 minutes.
The win is largely the reason Louisville rose from No. 19 in the AP rankings to No. 13.
Lee has been Louisville’s premier talent this season. The 6’6” senior is the only Cardinal to play more than 30 minutes a game (32) and he transferred after playing his first three NCAA seasons at Drexel. He was already a primer time scorer there, and he averaged 21.4 points and 6.1 rebounds as a junior. Now at a major program, he is still leading the team in scoring at 17 points per game while also averaging four rebounds, two assists and 1.6 steals per game.
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Lee had 29 points on 6 of 7 shooting and 11 of 11 from the line, in the Cardinals 91-83 win over Virginia Tech on Jan. 27. He is a good shooter and is shooting 37.6 percent from behind the arc this season.
Onuaku has been the Cardinals best big man. The 6’10” sophomore is blossoming with more playing time this season. Last year as a freshman he saw just 17 minutes a game, but the up-tick to 23 minutes has both given him confidence and elicited great play. Onuaku is good for 10.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game this season. He has grabbed 10 rebounds or more in three of the Cardinals’ last five games, and Louisville has gone 4-1 over that span. The Cardinals are 9-2 when Onuaku has 10 boards or more.
Trey Lewis is averaging 12.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in this, his senior NCAA season. He spent his first two years at Cleveland State where he averaged 16.3 points per game in 35 minutes a night in the Herizon Conference. The move to ACC play is challenging Lewis more, but he is mostly the same player. His usage rate has fallen and he is attempting just 9.5 field goal attempts per game, his low in his three NCAA season. Even so, Lewis shoots 43.1 percent from the floor and 38.6 percent from three.
Duke has won three of its past four games, with victories over NC State (twice) and Georgia. The loss came to then No. 15 Miami Hurricanes, and Duke was in the game but just could not keep pace with the Hurricanes, falling 88-78. Duke won 88-80 over NC State on Saturday night behind 28 points from guard Grayson Allen. Allen is battling an ankle injury but is listed as probable.
Luke Kennard came off the bench to hit six threes and score 26 points, as the Blue Devils stuck to a six-man rotation in the win. The Blue Devils shot 49 percent from the floor but landed 14 of 28 from three-point range.
Allen is averaging 20.9 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game for Duke in 35 minutes a game this season. He is shooting 49.7 percent from the floor and 42.7 percent from three. Allen has averaged 24.5 points per game over Duke’s last four games, while playing an average of 37.9 minutes per game.
The 6’5” sophomore seems a likely candidate to enter the NBA Draft. He is ranked No. 24 on the big board at NBADraft.net and projected to land at the Atlanta Hawks’ No. 23 overall pick. Duke may yield yet another major shooter and backcourt threat.
6’9 freshman forward Brandon Ingram is the main attraction from a draft standpoint. He is projected to be taken No. 2 overall in the 2016 mock draft at NBADraft.net, and he is given an NBA comparison of Kevin Durant. That high billing is not without substantiation.
Brandon Ingram is long and can see over defenses, and his stats are gaudy for a freshman: 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.8 steals/blocks per game. He had 25 points, seven rebounds and three assists in Duke’s 88-78 win over NC State on Jan. 23.
Ingram has a 7’3” wingspan and measured 6’9.5” in shoes at the Nike Hoop Summit. His length makes him a prototypical small forward, but much like Durant he could play the 2-spot as K.D. did during his first few NBA seasons. He is a top-notch passer when he decides to set up teammates, and he can set the table for finishers.
Ingram is difficult to stave off penetrating the defense and Ingram typically finds a way to get good looks. He is shooting 47.4 percent from the field while knocking down 40 percent of his 5.1 threes attempted per game. Expect him to be a top-five pick, and even as high as No. 2 where he is currently projected.
So, Duke once again as a couple of top-notch weapons, and that makes the Blue Devils a dangerous team even if 17-6 and a no show in the rankings seems to indicate such. Duke will be there in the Big Dance again this March, and it is tough to bet against coach Mike Krzyzewski.