Game Preview: Duke Blue Devils vs. Louisville Cardinals (Game 1) – February 8, 2016

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Abridged Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (17-6, 6-4 (5th T)] vs. Louisville Cardinals [19-4, 8-2 (1st T)]

Monday, February 8, 2016 • 7:00 PM • ESPN • Durham, NC • Cameron Indoor Stadium

By Randy Dunson [Note: Please direct comments, suggestions, etc. to @RandyDunson.]

Endgame

The top-ranked offense of the Duke Blue Devils (17-6) welcome the 187th-ranked defense of the No. 19-ranked Louisville Cardinals (19-4). The game starts at 7:00 pm ET on Monday, February 8 and can be seen on ESPN and ESPN3.

The Blue Devils were victorious over North Carolina State 88-80 on Saturday. Grayson Allen led all scorers on the team with 28 points on 6-for-11 shooting. The Cardinals are coming off a 79-47 win over Boston College on Saturday. Trey Lewis led the game in scoring with 16 points on 3-for-6 shooting.

Look for some minor adjustments from the Devils, especially regarding that perimeter defense because allowing 50 percent shooting from the perimeter is not good enough when you are facing the upper half of a rugged ACC.

ACC Standings:

TEAM                                    C W-L                    O W-L                    RPI RANK

Louisville                              8-2                         19-4                       24

Carolina                                8-2                         19-4                       9

Virginia                                 8-3                          19-4                       5

Miami (Fla.)                        6-3                         17-4                       14

Notre Dame                       7-4                          16-7                       29

Clemson                              7-4                          14-9                       83

Pittsburgh                           6-4                          17-5                       44

Duke                                     6-4                          17-6                       23

That said, a great week for Duke. Losing or even splitting this week’s games could have been disastrous. Instead, Duke finds itself smack dab in the middle of the conversation of the best conference in all of college basketball.

Has anyone heard me talk about parity before? Nah, it is not just there. Well folks, based on just these conference standings parameters, if this not parity, then please let me know what is. Hell, you could add in the lower half and still make a case. I am just kidding a bit, but seriously, though, you cannot argue much with these numbers. The only outlier is Clemson’s RPI ranking of 83.

This matchup pits one of the nation’s top offenses against one of its elite defenses, as Duke currently ranks first in offensive efficiency and Louisville is third in defensive efficiency. The Cardinals could also control the offensive glass in this matchup, as they rank second in the nation in OR% at 41.7%. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, place near the bottom of the nation (311th) on the defensive backboards with a DR% of 66.9%.

The Blue Devils have one of the most prolific home offenses in the entire nation, averaging 87.5 points per game. The Blue Devils are an exceptional shooting team from the line with 18.0 free throws made per game, one of the highest marks in Division I. Duke is one of the most disciplined teams in the nation with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.39. Over their past 10 games, the Duke defense has been playing lights out, only allowing 63.0 points per game, well under their season average of 71.6. Opponents have consistently had their shots rejected by the Blue Devils, ranking 37th in the country in blocks per game with 5.0.

The Cardinals rank 45th in the country in scoring, averaging 79.0 points per game. The Cardinals have controlled the glass with an average of 40.6 rebounds per game, 30th in the country. The last 10 games have really brought the worst out of the Cardinals on the defensive end. They allowed 73.3 points per game during that span, which is higher than their season average of 59.8. When it comes to defending the rim, the Cardinals are one of the best in the nation with an average of 5.0 blocks per game.

Following are some game-specific keys, some of the context having been addressed in past previews or in my most reent article on www.dukeblogger.com, What is Next for Duke – Will They Fold or Will They Hold?.

Key Takeaways From the NC State Game (To Be Adjusted as Needed for This Game)

  • Offense
    • Looking good as Grayson Allen finished with 28 points while freshman Luke Kennard had 26
    • Blue Devils shot 49 percent from the floor and 50 percent from deep and Brandon Ingram finished with 14 points
    • Cannot keep outscoring everyone and hoping that this will be good enough
  • Defense
    • Almost a mirror image of each other yesterday as NC State shot 45 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range
  • Rebounding
    • Without Amile Jefferson in the lineup, Duke becomes one of the worst rebounding teams in the ACC
    • Wolfpack out-rebounded the Blue Devils, 38-29
    • Marshall Plumlee continued to do his best in the middle with 12 of those 29 boards but what happens if the big fella ever gets in foul trouble, which is likelihood against Louisville, Virginia and North Carolina on Wednesday the 17th.

Keys to the Game for Louisville

  • Freshman forward Deng Adel
    • Has now had two very good games over the past week, with a 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals against BC after 12 points and five rebounds against Virginia
    • He appears to finally be tapping his potential, about which U of L’s coaching staff was very excited in the buildup to the season. He has struggled with nervousness this season, so it will be interesting to see how he handles his first trip to such a famous arena.
  • Cameron Indoor Stadium
    • This is Louisville’s first trip to one of college basketball’s most treasured gyms since joining the ACC
    • In fact, it’s coach Rick Pitino’s first time there, too
      • The Cards last played there 33 years ago
  • Damion Lee
    • There is still no word yet on Louisville star bruised knee, which kept him out of Saturday’s win over BC
      • Obviously having its leading scorer would help U of L quite a bit for this trip to one of the toughest home courts in the country
      • It would also give Pitino some flexibility in terms of matching up with Duke’s Brandon Ingram, a fluid, athletic 6-foot-9 freshman who plays a hybrid forward role for the Blue Devils

Key Statistics to the Game (Rankings are National)

  • Duke averages 84.8 points per game (ranked seventh). Ranked third, Louisville has allowed an average of just 59.8 points per game
  • Duke is one of the top-scoring teams at home, averaging 87.5 points per game (ranked ninth). Louisville, on the other hand, allows 73.0 points per away game (ranked 106th)
  • In its last game, Louisville won by a margin of 32 points. Duke is 10-0 in games decided by a margin of 18 points or more. Louisville has a 14-0 record in blowouts
  • Ranked 11th, the Louisville Cardinals have an offensive rating of 117.6. The Duke Blue Devils rank 187th with a defensive rating of just 103.6
  • Ranked 22nd in the country, Louisville has an average field goal percentage of 48.3%. Duke is 3-2 when opponents have a similar or higher field goal percentage
  • The Duke Blue Devils rank lower for their field goal percentage (29th) than they do for their effective field goal percentage (17th), but the Louisville Cardinals have a better FG% ranking (22nd) than eFG% ranking (50th)
  • Duke ranks 35th in the nation with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.39. Louisville is ranked lower at 132nd with an A/TO of 1.12
  • Louisville, the 30th-ranked team in rebounding, registers an average of 40.6 rebounds per game. Duke does worse, ranked 101st with 38.0
  • When it comes to offensive rebounds, Louisville ranks eighth. Duke ranks 184th in defensive rebounds
  • Louisville is one of the best in the country in forcing turnovers, with opponents averaging a TO% of 22.1% (ranked 23rd). Duke is an even 1-1 SU when it has a TO% of 22.1% or greater