College basketball moves into the second half of the regular season this weekend, and the spotlight game is an ACC matchup Saturday night featuring two of the top national championship contenders.
Louisville (14-3) heads down to Durham, NC to play Duke (15-2) in battle between conference co-leaders (along with Florida State, all have 5-1 conference records). The visiting Cardinals come in on a three-game winning streak, while Duke fell to Clemson on Tuesday.
For the Cardinals, it’s a chance for redemption. Last season, Louisville, with pretty much the same team it has this season, led by 23 points at home midway through the second half, only to see Duke make an epic comeback and pull out a stunning 71-69 victory. The Cardinals proceeded to lose six of their last nine games after that.
While these Blue Devils won’t have Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett to lead them, they’re still stacked with talent. Freshman center Vernon Carey Jr., is averaging 17.6 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, while shooting 60.5 percent from the floor. Sophomore guard Tre Jones pitches in 15.1 points a game.
Louisville will look to rely on Jordan Nwora, the ACC’s leading scorer at 20.4 points a game. The 6-7 forward is one of the top 3-point shooters, having made 44 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
While both teams have been ranked at the top of the Associated Press poll this season, a win by the Cardinals on the road could really boost their profile for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament, which starts in two months. According to the NCAA’s NET rankings, which are used to help determine seeding in the tournament, Louisville is ranked 14th and is just 1-3 against quadrant 1, or top, teams. Duke is currently sixth in the NET.
The game tips off at 6 pm ET and will be broadcast on ESPN.
Duke Favored, Bettors Split
Duke opened as a seven-point favorite when the lines were released Friday night, and the line has since moved to eight at both FanDuel and DraftKings. While most of the initial money at FanDuel was on Duke, according to oddsFire, it leveled overnight.
As of late Saturday morning, 51 percent of the bets and 52 percent of the handle are on the Cardinals getting the points.
FanDuel’s moneyline offers the Cardinals at +280 and the Blue Devils at -380. While 58 percent of bettors are on the Cardinals, 78 percent of the handle is on Duke.
Both books offer total points at 138.5, and at FanDuel 85 percent of the tickets and 90 percent of the handle are on the over.
Title, Wooden Favorites Featured
Saturday is the only time Duke and Louisville are scheduled to meet in the regular season. But it’s quite possible they’ll face off in March in the ACC Tournament, or perhaps even in the NCAA’s Big Dance.
At FanDuel, Duke is the co-favorite with Gonzaga at +1000 to win the NCAA title, and Louisville is right behind at +1100. Over at DraftKings, Gonzaga and Kansas are the favorites at +900, but Louisville and Duke are just behind them at +1000 each.
Both Nwora and Casey are also among the favorites for the John R. Wooden Award, which honors the most outstanding player in college basketball.
At DraftKings, Nwora and Dayton’s Obi Toppin are listed as the second choices at +650 behind Michigan State’s Cassius Winston (+450). Carey is the fifth choice at +750, right behind Marquette’s Markus Howard. FanDuel has Winston at +500, Howard at +600, Nwora and Toppin at +650, and Carey at +750.
No one else at either book has odds shorter than +1500.