The Blue Zone gets you ready for tonight's crucial game between the Blue Devils and the Cavaliers with some can't-miss bets:
Virginia (-1) vs Duke
To be frank, Duke needs this game a lot more than Virginia. Although the Cavaliers are coming off a blowout loss to Florida State and want a win to avoid a steep fall in the rankings, they are 15-4 and are a sure-bet to make the tournament. Duke cannot say the same. At 9-8, the Blue Devils desperately need this win for two reasons: first, they are on thin-ice as it is and cannot afford another loss, and second, this may be their only remaining chance at a top-25 win in the regular season. Virginia boasts a rare level of experience with senior forwards Sam Hauser and Jay Huff as well as junior guard Kihei Clark at the helm. The Blue Devils are on the inexperienced end with a largely freshman roster.
Although the majority of Duke’s losses have been close, holding within one point of this Cavalier team that rarely makes mistakes will be too much to ask from the Blue Devils, even though the game will be in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Matthew Hurt will need to carry the load for Duke’s halfcourt offense with highly efficient shooting, and Jordan Goldwire and company will need to force turnovers and create fast-break opportunities for the Blue Devils. I will not be surprised if Duke pulls off the upset, but considering the fact that their closest loss has been two points, the much smarter move is lean on Virginia’s side of the spread in this one.
Pick: Virginia (-1)
Over/Under: 132 Points
This over/under is very intriguing because which side it falls will depend on which team can successfully set the tone of the game.
Virginia has the top defense in the ACC, allowing just 59.9 points per game. This Cavalier team likes to dictate games by slowing it down and choking out their opponents in low-scoring games. To put this into perspective, Virginia only scores 69.4 points per game, which is 234th in the nation and 13th in the ACC. If Virginia has its way, you can comfortably take the under.
Duke on the other hand prefers a much faster-paced, transition-dominated game. The Blue Devils have a weaker defense, ranking 9th in the ACC and allowing 70.2 points per game. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski has had to try a variety of defensive strategies this season and the Blue Devils have not fully meshed with any. The Blue Devils make up for their defense with an energetic offense, ranking 3rd in the ACC and posting 75.3 points per game. If the Blue Devils have their way, you can comfortably take the over.
In making this decision, you have to consider the probabilities that either team will be successful in setting the tone of the game. For the sake of conversation, 132 points can be reached with 66 points for each team. So which side of this line is the game more likely to fall? The Cavaliers have only allowed their opponent to hit 66 points or more on four occasions this entire season. The Blue Devils have surpassed this 66 point cut-off in every game but one this season, and it was on the road against Louisville. Although I believe Virginia will win the game, it may be a more high-scoring game of Duke’s fashion. Look for both sides of the ball to make plays and push their teams above 66 points. Take the over.
Pick: Over 132
Duke Over/Under 6.5 steals
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Put simply, Duke needs turnovers to win. Steals are an integral part of this Blue Devil team because they generate opportunities in transition that allow players such as Goldwire and DJ Steward to shine. Luckily for Duke, it averages 8.2 steals per game thanks to guards like Goldwire pressing effectively.
Virginia only gives up 9.6 turnovers per game, and keep in mind that not all turnovers are steals. Travels, shot-clock violations and five-second violations all count as turnovers, just to name a few. Getting more than six steals against Virginia will be very difficult thanks to the experience of this Cavalier roster.
The team that averages the next-lowest amount of turnovers after Virginia is Notre Dame. In their two matchups with Notre Dame this season, the Blue Devils have forced eight and seven steals, respectively. Virginia and Notre Dame’s ball security is comparable, thanks to similar styles from Cavalier head coach Tony Bennett and Fighting Irish head coach Mike Brey. The two games with the Fighting Irish point in favor of Duke surpassing this 6.5 mark. However, the Cavaliers are having a significantly more successful season than Notre Dame, and will make things much more challenging on the Blue Devils as a result.
This will be an interesting statistic to follow throughout the game, and expect it to come down to the very end. Ultimately, look for Virginia to prevail and force Duke into the under on this one.