Saturday’s college basketball schedule is highlighted by the primetime showdown between the no. 1 Duke Blue Devils and the no. 4 Virginia Cavaliers. With the game at Cameroon Indoor Stadium, Duke is a 3-point favorite.
The Blue Devils may need a win Saturday in order to retain the top spot in the polls. Duke lost Monday night at home against Syracuse, snapping a nine-game winning streak. For what it’s worth, Duke played that game without Cam Reddish and also lost Tre Jones to a 1st half injury. However, they still failed to secure the win after leading throughout.
Virginia, meanwhile, is one of two undefeated teams left in college basketball this season. The Cavaliers have defeated the likes of Wisconsin, Maryland, South Carolina, and Florida State on their way to being 16-0. They are also fresh off an 81-59 thumping of no. 9 Virginia Tech on Tuesday night.
A Well-Oiled Machines
Once again, Tony Bennett has turned the Cavaliers into a well-oiled machine. In fact, this could be Virginia’s best offensive team under Bennett. The trio of Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and De’Andre Hunter are combining for over 42 points per game. More importantly, all are shooting over 40% from the perimeter, giving the Cavs several knockdown shooters that opposing teams must watch carefully. That trio has also gotten help from Braxton Key and Mamadi Diakite, who have both proven capable of scoring in double figures on any given night.
Of course, as usual, the Cavaliers are one of the best defensive teams in the country. Virginia is giving up under 52 points per game, which leads the nation. Through 16 games, only two have scored over 60 points against the Cavs. Opposing teams are once again struggling against the pack line defense, finding it difficult to get comfortable in their offensive sets and score with any consistency.
No Mr. Jones
This will be Duke’s first full game without Jones running the point. Without him for most of the Syracuse game, they shot under 40% from the field and just 21% from three-point range. The good news is that turnovers weren’t a major issue. They will also get Reddish back, as he and R.J. Barrett may be relied upon to initiate the offense. Backup point guard Jordan Goldwire didn’t see much of an uptick in minutes after Jones got hurt, so it’ll still be up to Reddish and Barrett to be the playmakers and make sure Zion Williamson gets as many touches as possible.
Oddly enough, Duke may feel the absence of Jones more so on the defensive end of the court. Jones is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country and is averaging over two steals per game. It’s not a coincidence that a sluggish Syracuse offense scored over 90 points against Duke without Jones in the game while only Kentucky and Gonzaga have broken the 80-point barrier against the Blue Devils.
Even without Jones, Duke is undoubtedly the more talented team. However, Virginia plays a team game, and they do it at both ends. Keep in mind the Cavaliers were 17-1 in the ACC last season, and they may be even better this season. They own the ACC regular season and they’ll own Saturday’s game, handing Duke their second straight home loss. Bet on Virginia to win.