The much-anticipated showdown is set for Saturday, Jan. 19 in Durham, and No. 4 Virginia (16-0) tries to remain undefeated against No. 1 Duke (14-2). While a little of the luster is lost following Duke’s 95-91 overtime loss to Syracuse Monday as a 17.5-point favorite, there is still much on the line for the top two teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and I have a full breakdown so you can make some informed, Saturday College Basketball picks.
Note that the line for this game will be released late Friday or Saturday morning.
What’s at Stake?
Virginia is 4-0 in the ACC following their impressive and dominant 81-59 win over No. 9 Virginia Tech (14-2) on Tuesday. The Cavaliers knew what was at stake with Duke’s loss Monday, so they were ready to go against rival Virginia Tech and shot lights out draining 13-of-24 3-pointers while hitting 58.5% of their shots from the field overall. Coach Tony Bennett’s Cavs and their disciplined and strong defense will try to slow the Blue Devils and their high-scoring offense. A win by Virginia moves them further out front in the ACC at 5-0 and likely a No. 1 ranking in the polls next week.
The Match-up and Stats
Coach Tony Bennett’s Cavs boast a disciplined and strong defense that will try to slow the Blue Devils, who are averaging 90.2 points per game this season to rank No. 2 in the country. Virginia counters with the No. 1 scoring defense in the country, allowing just 51.7 points per game. The Cavaliers are annually among the best defensive teams in the country under coach Bennett, but they will be put to the test on the road with Duke’s high-scoring star freshman RJ Barrett (23.3 PPG) and dominant front court player Zion Williamson (21.2 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 30 blocks). Williamson had a career-high 35 points in the loss to Syracuse, and he leads the No. 1 shot-blocking team in the country.
Both defenses are playing superb, as Virginia allows just 37.0% field goal shooting while Duke allows 37.8%. Duke (23.3) and Virginia (22.6) rank No. 2 and No. 3 in the country in scoring margin. Duke is the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the ACC while Virginia is the No. 1 defensive rebounding team in the league. Both teams are among the leaders in the ACC in shooting with Duke hitting 48.8% FG and Virginia 48.1%. But the Cavaliers have solid shooters from the perimeter hitting 40.5% from the 3-point line with Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunger and Ty Jerome all knocking down better than 41% from the arc as the team’s top three scorers.
Duke has struggled hitting just 31.8% beyond the arc, and Virginia’s 3-point defense is suffocating allowing just 25.8% shooting from long range. And as you would expect from a well-coached and disciplined Bennett team, Virginia has the fewest turnovers in the ACC and best assist-to-turnover ratio. Virginia is also an ACC-best 77.7% from the free throw line while Duke is the worst free throw shooting team in the conference hitting just 67.7% of their foul shots.
There is a big injury concern for Duke coming into this game which will definitely impact the way people lean in on this game in Saturday College Basketball picks. Star freshman point guard Tre Jones suffered a AC joint separation in his shoulder against Syracuse. He’s out indefinitely. Jones is the floor general and premier point guard who led the Blue Devils in assists and led the country in assist-to-turnover ratio. His loss puts more pressure on the perimeter players to perform, and Duke’s weakness is shooting 3-pointers.
The loss of Jones changes the outlook and line on the game. Virginia is now likely a very slight road favorite at Duke. The Cavaliers who are the big money-makers this season going 13-3 ATS while Duke is still a very solid 10-6 ATS.
The Picks and Bets
The linemaker will have a tougher time setting a total on this game with a high-scoring Duke offense against a No. 1 scoring defense in Virginia. The injury to Jones complicates the process for the linemaker, and Duke also has to adjust with a new player filling in at point guard. Could be a very rare underdog role for Duke at home in Saturday College Basketball picks, but the Cavaliers are the type of well-coached opponent that can win in this environment.
Virginia plays at a snails pace, but the Cavaliers are so efficient and effective ranking top-4 in the country in offensive and defensive efficiency. Virginia can force opponents into longer and uncomfortable possessions. Now with the absence of Jones for Duke, it could be much more uncomfortable for Duke as they try to run efficient sets or make more plays in transition. Virginia remains undefeated with a big road win at Duke.
Saturday College Basketball Picks – Virginia ATS