One of the marquee games of the evening on the Saturday college basketball slate is in the ACC at Cameron Indoor. This would have been a highly anticipated matchup if the Duke Blue Devils weren’t in a down season. That said, Duke looked much better on the road against Wake Forest in their most recent outing on Wednesday. The Blue Devils turned back their season and looked like the team of old. They finished off the Demon Deacons in fine form with a 84-60 win.
It was the second straight win for Duke, as they also beat NC State on the road last Saturday, 69-53. Duke is back home for the first time since a 93-89 loss against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on February 9. Since that loss, the Blue Devils have been winners in two straight outings. They looked a lot hungrier against NC State and Wake Forest than we’ve seen in the past with this Duke team. The loss against North Carolina, 91-87, might have kick started things for Duke.
I say might have, though, and will continue to be very cautious with the Blue Devils. Are we supposed to be impressed that they beat NC State and Wake Forest? Neither team offers much in the way of a measuring stick for Duke. Virginia on the other hand does. A win over Virginia would go a long way for Duke’s NCAA Tournament resume. If they get hot at the right time, yes, the committee is going to give Duke some bonus points for playing well recently.
Virginia isn’t going to need any recency bias to get into the NCAA Tournament. They have a good resume going into late February, though coming off a rare really poor performance. The Cavaliers are fresh off a 81-60 loss against Florida State on Monday. That was one of the worst efforts we’ve seen from Virginia this season. It was a lifeless effort from the Cavaliers in Tallahassee. In any event, the Cavaliers are still 15-4 and the No. 7 team in the NCAA. They are in a much better spot than where the Blue Devils are at 9-8.
The Cavaliers were on a four-game winning streak before taking it on the chin against the Seminoles. That game might have been a different result if the stakes were higher and a neutral court. Duke has to be prepared in this contest, because I’m sure we are going to see a much more aggressive Virginia defense after that beatdown. We’ll see if the Cavs get back to basics at Duke on Saturday night. Head below for our free Virginia vs. Duke pick on February 20, 2021.
Virginia Cavaliers vs. Duke Blue Devils NCAA Betting Odds:
Virginia vs. Duke Prediction:
The Virginia defense was in terrible form against Florida State. The usually hard-nosed Cavaliers’ defense was invisible in that contest. They allowed 45 points in the first-half, and did better in the second, but 36 points is still a lot to swallow for a Virginia team that prides itself on stingy defense.
Despite giving up 81 points in the loss, the Cavaliers are sixth in the NCAA with an average of 59.9 points against per game. They are one of the best in the business at frustrating teams and preventing them from getting into a rhythm. That didn’t happen against Florida State, but it seems like more of an outlier than a sign of things to come for Virginia.
The defense has travelled on the road for the Cavaliers as well. They have allowed 58.3 points per game on the road. Unlike the National Champion team, Virginia is going to need to find more offense from somewhere to go deep in the NCAA Tournament. That 2019 team was insanely talented defensively, routinely holding teams under 50 points.
There have been several really solid Virginia teams in the Tony Bennett era. They’ve always been a strict defensive team. While Virginia is sixth defensively, the Cavaliers are 240th on offense with 69.4 points per game and the defense isn’t quite as fierce, albeit still really good. The low points scored is partly by design to limit possessions for opposing teams.
The Cavaliers are 21st in the NCAA with a field goal percentage of 48.9%, and they can shoot from three, with a successful clip of 39.8% for tenth in the NCAA. They are likely going to have to go faster as an offense in the NCAA Tournament. Like I said, while really good, Virginia doesn’t have the 2019 defense present.
Duke has been solid offensively this season. They’ve netted an average of 76.1 points per game for 76th. My concern for Duke is that they catch Virginia off a really bad performance. Expect the Cavaliers to be much more aggressive in this one and in better form. The Duke defense can be exploited as well, with 71.5 points against per game, 212nd in the country. I’m backing Virginia in a big bounce-back performance at Cameron Indoor tonight.