Duke Blue Devils vs. Virginia Cavaliers
Duke Blue Devils (20-2 SU, 14-8 ATS) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (20-1 SU, 16-5 ATS)
When: Saturday, February 9, 2019 – 6 PM ET
Where: John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: DUKE +2.5/UVA -2.5
Total: O/U 135.5
Last Time Out: Duke routed Boston College 80-55; Virginia beat Miami 56-46.
Scouting the Blue Devils:
Losing Tre Jones didn’t cost the Blue Devils, and now Duke has him healthy again after Jones missed the first meeting in Durham. That game became a 72-70 win on Jan. 19, which is still the Cavaliers’ only loss of the season, and it seems to have been a turning point that has taken Duke to another level. The Blue Devils haven’t had anyone besides the Cavaliers stay within 15 points of them since their loss to Syracuse, and they’re looking like they’re in line for a No. 1 seed in a month.
Scouting the Cavaliers:
Where has the offense gone for Virginia? The Cavaliers remain outstanding on defense as always, but they’ve managed just 55 and 56 points in regulation in their past two contests. That might be good enough to beat the likes of N.C. State and Miami, but it’s not going to be good enough to win against the likes of Duke. In the Miami game, Virginia won by dominating the Hurricanes on the glass despite poor shooting, but in their first meeting with Duke, the Cavaliers lost the rebounding battle by two to the Blue Devils. Virginia’s defense is good enough to make victory a possibility in any situation, but it’s the attack of De’Andre Hunter and Kyle Guy that really makes Virginia special.
Washington, D.C. In all likelihood, this game is going to determine which team has the inside track on becoming the No. 1 seed in the East Regional and getting to play in the nation’s capital (should they get there) for the regional semifinals and finals. Thanks to the conference’s unique bylaws, there’s no regular season title in the ACC to worry about, so these teams are thinking about seeding for March and well aware that they are each other’s biggest competition for getting to stay close to home as opposed to getting shipped to the West Regional or landing in a South Regional in Louisville that’s likely to include Tennessee or Kentucky.
While both teams are currently in line for a No. 1 seed, Virginia is unlikely to have much of an argument to be seeded over Duke if it has two regular season losses to the Blue Devils. But if the Cavaliers earn the split, the East Regional’s top seed is likely to come down to whoever wins the ACC title in Charlotte next month. To put it mildly, this is the biggest game on the schedule for both teams.
Duke will Cover if:
The Blue Devils can win the second-chance points battle again. In the first meeting, Duke outscored Virginia 13-8 on second-chance points, which isn’t a big margin in most situations but is devastating to the Cavaliers. Virginia creates the fewest possessions in the nation, which means that second-chance baskets are its biggest Achilles’ heel. The longer Duke can extend its possessions, the harder it will be for Virginia to stay with its game plan.
Virginia will Cover if:
The Cavaliers can hit their shots from behind the arc. Virginia couldn’t hit anything from deep in Durham, and the only reasons the final score wasn’t worse were that the Cavaliers did their job on defense and held Duke to an even worse percentage from 3-point range. Virginia has to take advantage of its looks and make sure that it hits a reasonable percentage of its deep shots. The Cavaliers don’t have to be outstanding from deep, but they do have to at least hit about a third of their 3-pointers to earn a win.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
Tre Jones might be back, but I don’t know how much of a difference it’s going to make. I think Virginia finds its offense in front of a fired-up home crowd and can play defense well enough to keep Duke at bay. Stopping the Blue Devils simply isn’t going to happen, but as long as the Cavaliers are hitting their shots, they can slow down Duke enough to give themselves enough of a cushion to get ahead.
When Virginia gets a lead, there’s no team more dangerous in the nation, and I think that’s exactly what happens here. Given that Virginia covered at Cameron, I feel very comfortable laying the small chalk with the Cavaliers in Charlottesville.
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