vs. DUKE BLUE DEVILS
Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, NC
Tip-off: Saturday, 2:00 pm ET
Line: NA, Total: NA
The ACCs two best teams will go at it in front of the Cameron Crazies.
It probably won't shock you to hear that a defensive-minded, 19-1 Virginia team has taken it to linemakers this season, with one of the nation's best records against the spread at 13-4. What will probably surprise you is the fact that 18-2 Duke has done almost just as well against spreads, sitting at 12-6 entering Saturday's home matchup against the Cavaliers. In what is something of a down year for the Atlantic Coast Conference, these two teams appear to be head-and-shoulders above the rest of the league as national title contenders. Each team is coming off a Tuesday night conference win, with Duke taking care of business 84-70 at Wake Forest and Virginia getting the most Virginia win of all time with a 61-36 home win over Clemson.
It's only right that the ACC Defensive Player of the Year comes from Virginia, and they have two top candidates for the award. One is F Isaiah Wilkins, the team's leading rebounder and a versatile inside-out defender at 6-foot-7. He's not much of a factor on the offensive end, but UVA's other DPOTY candidate is. That would be G Devon Hall, who's spending his fifth year in Charlottesville. He's a nightmare for opposing guards, and led the Cavaliers with 14 points and three steals against Clemson. He's second on the team in assists (by one single assist) and in scoring. First is G Kyle Guy, who is averaging over 15 points per game as a sophomore. He and Hall are shooting over 40% from deep, as is Guy's fellow sophomore Ty Jerome. A 31-point outburst from Jerome late in December helped UVA escape a near upset to Boston College, a game they won by one point. Jerome hasn't hit 15 points in a game since, but Virginia hasn't won a game by fewer than seven points. C Jack Salt joins those four in the starting lineup, but only plays about 20 minutes per game. Guards Nigel Johnson, a senior, and De'Andre Hunter, a freshman, are key ball-handlers off the bench.
Duke C Marvin Bagley is the type of talent that, according to Coach K, hasn't come around the program since Kyrie Irving. In Durham, that's saying something. Bagley is indeed a transformative player, an impossibly mobile near-seven-footer who can rebound with the very best of 'em. He's averaging 21.6 PPG and 11.5 RPG, giving him the ACC lead in both categories. And he has another enormous freshman, F Wendell Carter, patrolling the paint next to him. Carter is fifth in the ACC with 9.2 RPG, and has now scored at least 15 points in four straight games. He put up 23 and 12 against Wake Forest on Wednesday to lead the Blue Devils. Freshman G Trevon Duval is also an ACC league-leader, sitting atop the conference with an average of 6.0 APG. Only at Duke could players like he and G Gary Trent Jr.—also a freshman—be relative afterthoughts on the roster. Those four first-years join senior G Grayson Allen in the starting lineup. Allen has, thankfully, stayed out of the headlines this year, and his numbers are improved across the board. He appears to be putting in extra work on defense, which is good considering that many believe defense is the Blue Devils' one weakness. There is another, however: Depth. Duke's starting lineup comprises 84% of the team's scoring and over 70% of its rebounding. If one of those five goes down—especially Bagley or Allen—someone else will have to step up.