What a game we have in store for you today! The Gonzaga Bulldogs are really good, so are the Tennessee Volunteers, but for my money, the game today between the Duke Blue Devils and Virginia Cavaliers will decide which team is the best team in the country right now. Whichever team comes out on top today will have the inside track for both the ACC regular season title and a number one seed in the tournament.
These teams matched up at Cameron Indoor on January 19th, and the game was an absolute classic affair with the Blue Devils edging the Cavs 72-70. The Cavs will get their chance at revenge tonight in Charlottesville. Virginia is -2-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 136.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:00 PM PST from Jones Arena.
Depending on what ranking you look at, Duke and Virginia are either the top two teams in the country or at worst, two of the top three. The AP Poll has Duke at number two and Virginia at number three. The Coaches Poll has them at the same spots. Kenpom has Virginia at number one and Duke at number two. The NCAA NET rankings have Virginia at one, and Duke at number three. No matter where you look, this is an elite of the elite matchup between two of the best teams in the country.
The Duke Blue Devils are the most talented team in the country. That doesn’t mean they are the “best” team in the country, but no team can match this roster top to bottom as far as raw talent goes. They start four, five start freshman. I can’t remember the last time there was this much young talent on one team. Does anyone remember the Fab Five at Michigan? This team is well rounded as they rank fourth in both offensive and defensive efficiency per kenpom. And they have won fifteen out of their last sixteen games, including six straight wins.
And they aren’t beating up on nobody teams as they have several huge wins. They have beaten Auburn, Kentucky, Indiana, Texas Tech, Virginia, and Florida State this season. It seems to be all but a foregone conclusion that the Blue Devils will get a top line seed in the tournament. Duke is led by superstar freshman Zion Williamson.
Williamson was the most hyped player to hit the college ranks in a generation and has more than lived up to all that hype. The big man brings a brand of size and athleticism that we have never really seen. He is nearly 300-pounds yet moves gracefully like a man half his size. He is an absolute matchup nightmare that can’t be stopped. He is averaging twenty-two points, nine rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and two steals a game. This kid can really do it all and is a lock to be the number one overall pick in next year’s NBA draft. Against Virginia earlier this season, Zion dropped twenty-seven points and nine rebounds in the win.
The Virginia Cavaliers don’t have the top line talent of a team like Duke, but in many people’s estimation this is the best overall “team.” They play elite defense, they are ranked second in defensive efficiency per kenpom. And they have really picked up their game on offense as well, currently, they rank fifth. They went 31-2 last year enroot to the number one overall seed in the tournament, and this season they are 20-1, with their lone loss coming against Duke. This team knows how to win games.
Much like the Blue Devils, the Cavs have plenty of big wins. They have beaten Virginia Tech, NC State, Florida State, Maryland, Wisconsin, and VCU. But the toughest is yet to come for the Cavs as they play Duke today and then head to Chapel Hill to play a red hot and streaking North Carolina Tar Heels team just a couple of days later. If the Cas can find a way to survive this week, they will likely take over the number one spot in all of these various polls and rankings.
So, who wins tonight? Great question. Duke is seemingly impossible to beat right now. They aren’t just beating teams, they are blowing them out. But if they are ever going to lose another game, it is tonight in Charlottesville. And I think that is just what will happen. The Cavs opened as -3-point favorites, which seemed just a bit too high. The early morning betting action has pushed this line towards Duke though, and the line now sits at Virginia -2-points.
That is about as sharp of a line as you are going to get, it wouldn’t at all shock me to see this line push, as I expect this to be a one-possession game throughout. But I just don’t think Duke is going to be able to go into Virginia and knock off the Cavs. Over the last several seasons the Cavs have been basically unbeatable at home, and I expect that to continue today. It will be a back and forth affair all afternoon long, but when the smoke clears, I see Virginia finding a way to eek out a win and cover. Give me the Virginia Cavaliers -2-points today in what should be a thriller!