#7 Virginia vs Duke Road to March Madness

#7 Virginia vs Duke Road to March Madness | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Written by on February 19, 2021

Technically, No. 7 Virginia is the defending national champion because the 2020 NCAA Tournament was canceled. The Wahoos will be back in the Big Dance and among the NCAAB favorites again next month, but struggling Duke shockingly could miss the tournament barring a late-season surge. UVA will be favored at Duke on Saturday.

How to Bet Virginia at Duke NCAA Basketball Odds & TV Info

Last Meeting

This is the only scheduled meeting this season and last year, they played just once and Virginia won 52-50 at home when Duke was No. 7 and UVA unranked. After Mamadi Diakite made a short, go-ahead jumper with 37 seconds left, the Cavs’ Jay Huff blocked Vernon Carey Jr.’s shot under the basket with 3.7 remaining and ripped the ball away, preserving Virginia’s upset. Huff remains a key player this year. Tre Jones tried an off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer, but missed for Duke, which was Mamudi 18 for 59 (31%) and 4 for 17 on 3-pointers. Jones is now in the NBA.

Why Bet on Virginia? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

Virginia (15-4) had a four-game winning streak snapped Monday in an 81-60 loss at No. 16 Florida State. It was UVA’s worst ACC loss in four years. FSU made a season-high 13 3-pointers on 24 attempts (54%). The Seminoles shot a robust 29 of 58 (50%) from the floor against one of the nation’s stingiest defensive programs.

“If you want a chance to beat a team of this caliber, or that is playing at this level in this setting, you can’t be sometimes really good defensively,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “You’ve got to be all the time good in the areas that you have control over. You can’t control if they can make the big-time shot or an acrobatic play, but we can control if our defense is set, if we’re active on the ball, if we’re in position and not committing some lapse in judgment.”

This is the 12th season at UVA for Bennett, who came into this game with a 9-9 record against the Seminoles. In each of those 18 meetings, the Hoos had held FSU to fewer than 70 points, but they broke down repeatedly on defense Monday. Virginia entered allowing just 58.8 points per game.

“If you want a chance to beat a team of this caliber, or that is playing at this level in this setting, you can’t be sometimes really good defensively. You’ve got to be all the time good in the areas that you have control over,” Bennett said.

The Cavaliers came out strong in the second half, sparked by 10 points from Clark. UVA opened the second half with a 16-3 run to cut it to seven, 48-41, at the 14:24 mark. FSU came back with a 17-0 run to take its largest lead of the game.

Four players finished in double figures for Virginia. Trey Murphy III led the team with 13 points and five rebounds. Kihei Clark and Tomas Woldetensae each added 12 points and Sam Hauser had 11.

Of UVA’s four losses, three have been by double-digit margins to ranked opponents: Gonzaga, Virginia Tech and Florida State.

Why Bet on Duke? | 2021 NCAA Basketball Expert Analysis

The Blue Devils (9-8) won their second in a row Wednesday, 84-60 at Wake Forest in their first game after learning that star freshman Jalen Johnson had opted out the rest of the season. Duke went on a 18-2 run to hold a 29-13 lead with 7:22 left in the half and was up 45-26 at the half.

“I thought Duke came in and played an outstanding game in all aspects,” Wake coach Steve Forbes said. “I could tell from the tip that they were ready to go. They had great pace on offense, they were defending, they were very physical. I think they knew coming in we were going to run motion so they were physical on the cuts and on the screens. They knocked us off our path and did a good job of making it hard for us to run our offense in the half-court. I did not feel like they felt us at all defensively. I felt like they were just getting whatever they wanted.”

Sophomore Matthew Hurt scored 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting. Over his last two games, Hurt has averaged 23.5 points, while shooting 16-of-19 from the field and 9-of-11 from three-point range. Hurt scored 14 straight for Duke – the final three of the first half and the first 11 of the second half. It marked his 12th career 20-point game – eighth this season.

Freshman DJ Steward scored 16 points – his 14th double-figure game this season. He has reached double-digits in eight consecutive games and in 13 of the last 14.

Duke finished with 17 assists against just six turnovers, its second consecutive game with 17 assists. Duke’s six turnovers were a season low – the previous low was eight at Notre Dame. Duke is averaging 18.3 assists over its last four game.

Duke has won back-to-back games following a three-game skid in which the Blue Devils allowed 83.7 points per game. They held N.C. State to its season-low 53 points last Saturday and limited Wake Forest to just 39% shooting Wednesday.

Johnson, meanwhile, opted out of the rest of the season Monday. The 6-foot-9 small forward, a projected lottery pick in the 2021 NBA draft, averaged 11.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 13 games for Duke.

Expert Prediction

  • Virginia 65, Duke 63

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