February 24, 2021

Lynq Sports

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#7 Virginia Cavaliers @ Duke Blue Devils – Preview & Best Bet 2/20/21

Spread: Virginia -2.5

O/U: 130.0

7:00pm Central – Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, North Carolina

#7 Virginia Cavaliers (15-4, 11-2)

Last three trends: 2-1 overall in last three games; 2-1 overall in last three road games

Season ATS & O/U Road Splits: 4-3-1 road ATS; 3-5 over/under on the road

Last three ATS & O/U Trends: 2-1 ATS in their last three; 1-2 O/U in their last three

Three Key Factors

  1. “Be a Goldfish, Sam”: For those of you who have seen Ted Lasso, you know that a goldfish is the happiest animal in the world because it has a 10-second memory, meaning it doesn’t let mistakes of the past impact its future outlook and performance. Well, UVA needs to be a goldfish tonight after the 81-60 drubbing they suffered at Florida State this past Monday night. The ‘Hoos looked out of sorts on both sides of the ball in that game. Florida State’s long and imposing defense limited UVA senior forward Jay Huff (12.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.4 BLK) to just 4 points on 6 field goal attempts, and the big man pulled down only 2 rebounds while turning the ball over 3 times. On defense, FSU had no problem shooting over Virginia’s pack line defense, as the Seminoles were 13-24 (54.2%) from deep. The great thing about the college basketball regular season, though, is that you always get another opportunity right around the corner to get a foul taste out of your mouth. The ‘Hoos need to take advantage of that opportunity tonight in another road contest.
  2. H&H Need to Deliver: When seniors Huff and leading scorer Sam Hauser (14.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG) are on, UVA wins. When either fails to score in double figures, though, the ‘Hoos are susceptible to an upset. The formula San Francisco, Gonzaga, and FSU all deployed in defense was to take Huff, specifically, away on defense. Against a Duke defense that just isn’t very good, UVA needs to get Huff and Hauser involved early and often tonight.
  3. Discipline on Offense: It’s no secret UVA plays at the slowest pace in the country. A lot of that has to do with the fact that they typically take more than 20 seconds to run their offensive sets; UVA’s average possession length on offense is 20.1 seconds (344th fastest in the country). Duke’s defense is suspect, at best, and tends to break down quickly. While UVA won’t push the ball or beat the Blue Devils in transition, they’ll need to grind Duke down on offense while also taking care of the ball to find open shots, which Duke will give them if UVA doesn’t turn the ball over. In UVA’s loss to FSU on Monday night, the ‘Hoos turned it over 13 times (21.0% of possessions) while only forcing 5 turnovers on defense. Such a margin is tough to overcome against a good team. It’s possible UVA could do so against Duke, but if the ‘Hoos avoid turnovers, they should be able to out-efficiency Duke on the offensive end and sail to victory in a limited possession game tonight.

Duke Blue Devils (9-8, 7-6)

Last three trends: 2-1 overall in last three games; 1-2 overall in last three home games

Season ATS & O/U Home Splits: 2-8-0 home ATS; 6-3-1 over/under at home

Last three ATS & O/U Trends: 2-1 ATS in their last three; 2-1 O/U in their last three

Three Key Factors

  1. The Elephant in the Room: So… freshman Jalen Johnson (11.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 52.3% FG%) has left the team. What does that mean for Duke to lose a highly talented, one-and-done caliber player? Well, some advanced metrics point to Johnson being a detriment to the Blue Devils when he’s out on the floor in terms of team efficiency. The spreadsheets say he might hurt Duke more than he helps them. Obviously, Johnson is an incredibly talented player. But Duke’s record when he hasn’t played? 4-0, although those wins have come @ Notre Dame, vs Wake Forest, vs Boston College, and @ Wake Forest. Duke also beat N.C. State on the road by 16 when Johnson played just 8 minutes off the bench last weekend. But keep in mind that the Blue Devils beat an NCAA Tournament team in Clemson by 26 at home, when Johnson had 9 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists. Today will be Duke’s first real test without Johnson on the roster. Are they really better off without him?
  2. Mark Williams’ and Jaemyn Brakefield’s Big Opportunities: With Johnson gone, the biggest beneficiaries of playing time have been freshman 7-foot center Mark Williams (4.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG) and freshman forward Jaemyn Brakefield (3.9 PPG). Williams provides a big body that can snag rebounds and clog the lane on defense, imposing his will around the basket (1.4 blocks per game in just 10.9 MPG). Brakefield offers the Blue Devils another outside threat, as he’s shooting 10-25 (40.0%) from outside the arc. Will those ratios hold as each player gets more minutes moving forward? Duke will need all the outside shooting it can get tonight if it’s going to break UVA’s pack line defense.
  3. Crazy Cameron: Cameron Indoor has long been a refuge for the Blue Devils, particularly when things get tough during the depths of ACC play in February. With the lack of fans and Cameron Crazies this season, however, Duke hasn’t had the same edge in Cameron Indoor that they usually enjoy. The Blue Devils are just 6-4 at home, and they haven’t gotten a signature home victory yet. Their home losses have come against Michigan State, Illinois, UNC, and Notre Dame, while their best victories have been against Clemson and Georgia Tech. The Cameron Crazies aren’t walking through the admission gates today, so don’t expect things to change on a dime for Duke tonight in terms of getting an edge from playing in their home digs.

Best Bet

There’s a lot of oxygen being given to the notion that Duke is better off without Jalen Johnson. Sure, the early returns for the Blue Devils have been positive with wins over N.C. State and Wake Forest (Johnson left the team prior to the Wake game, but played only 8 minutes against State). But UVA ain’t Wake or State, and the lack of Johnson offers one fewer look the Blue Devils can throw at the ‘Hoos to break down UVA’s pack line defense. Johnson excels in transition, and while UVA doesn’t crash the glass on offense in hopes of getting back and preventing opponents’ transition opportunities, Johnson is the type of guy who can make something happen in space even when the defense is back.

Nothing Duke has done all season gives me faith in them hanging around UVA and potentially springing an upset tonight. Home court advantage has seemingly been non-existent in Durham. Johnson’s departure shouldn’t be cause for pushing the line down in Duke’s direction, either. Unless sophomore forward Matthew Hurt and junior wing Joey Baker go bananas from outside the arc, UVA should recover from their most recent loss (as they’ve done after every other loss thus far this season) to win tonight’s game with ease. Take Virginia -2.5 (-110).

Mac is 15-15 on the season. All picks are one unit. A $100 bettor has a loss of $137.