Another day, another road matchup for the Blue Devils, this time against Louisville. For the first time since a miraculous comeback in 2019, Duke will travel to the KFC Yum! Center to take on a Cardinals program that has given the Blue Devils fits since head coach Chris Mack was hired in 2018. The Blue Zone has you covered with a X-Factor from both sides:
Duke: Forward Wendell Moore Jr.
It should come as no surprise that Duke’s success in Saturday’s game against Louisville depends on Wendell Moore Jr.’s success. The sophomore has had games so far this season where he played almost the entire game, bringing in plenty of points for the Blue Devils. However, he also has had a few games where he has played fewer than ten minutes and, frankly, did more damage in those short minutes than he helped the team. However, it is undeniable that when Moore is on, he’s on. Against Boston College earlier this season, Moore was praised after scoring a career high 25 points off the bench on 8-for-13 from the field, which was critical to the win Duke barely scraped out.
The 6'5", 216-pound forward offers a unique skill set for Duke’s squad this year. His versatility allows him to be an outlet both beyond the arc and in the post. While Moore may be shooting only 27.3% from the 3-point line this season, when he gets hot from deep, his 3-pointers are absolutely nothing but net. He has also consistent shot around 80% from the free throw line during his college career. What is most important about him for Saturday’s game against the Cardinals is that he has more experience than the majority of this year’s Duke team and thus can be a leader for the younger players. The value he adds is not just in his stats, but also his leadership. Due to his inconsistency this season, his energy on and off the court appears to be a signal for how the team as a whole will play. If he does well against Louisville, so will the Blue Devils.
Louisville: Guard David Johnson
Similarly to Wendell Moore, David Johnson hit his career high against Boston College earlier this year. Also similarly to Moore, Johnson’s success is often indicative of Louisville’s overall success. For the Blue Devils, Johnson poses a threat from deep, a place that Duke has struggled to defend this season. If Johnson is able to hit a hot streak and Moore doesn’t, the Cardinals will likely be victorious.
Johnson has doubled his 3-point percentage this season, going from 21.7% to 43.5%. While he may not lead the team in points with 13.1 per game, he also picks up a decent number of rebounds and assists per game. In games where both he and Carlik Jones are playing well, the Cardinals typically secure the game easily. If both Johnson and Jones are able to play to their potential, the Blue Devils will likely continue their losing streak on Saturday.