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College basketball expert Mike Spector takes a deep dive into tonight's marquee matchup between the Duke Blue Devils and Virginia Cavaliers.
ANALYSIS

Duke vs. Virginia Prediction: Will this Latest Chapter Again Come Down to the Wire?

The Duke Blue Devils are closing in on their first outright regular season ACC championship since 2005-06, and a win over the Virginia Cavaliers tonight would go a long way in helping them achieve that goal. Meanwhile, this is a massive game for Virginia, who finds themselves squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Sweeping Duke in their two regular season matchups would surely impress the tournament committee. So which team will walk out with this all-important victory?

Here are our picks and predictions for the ACC battle between Duke and Virginia.

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Duke vs. Virginia Prediction

Duke (23-4, 13-3) has won four consecutive games since their 69-68 home loss to Virginia on February 7th. And they have won those games in dominating fashion, as just one was by fewer than 11 points. The Blue Devils lost two of their first three road games (Ohio State, Florida State), but they have dominated on the road ever since. Duke has won five consecutive road games, all against ACC opponents, by an average of 14.4 points. 

Virginia (17-10, 11-6) has won two of three games since their big road win at Cameron Indoor. Their lone loss in that span was to in-state rival Virginia Tech, which was the Hokies’ sixth consecutive win at the time. If the Cavaliers are left out of the NCAA Tournament, it would be because of both a lack of key wins and several head-scratching losses. Virginia entered yesterday ranked 82nd in the NET because of a 3-5 record against Quad 1 opponents and five combined losses between Quadrants 2 and 3.

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In the first meeting between these teams, Virginia used their patented stifling man-to-man defense to hold several Blue Devils under their season scoring average. Mark Williams (16 points) was the only Duke starter in double figures, and they held Paolo Banchero to a season-low in points. In addition, the game was AJ Griffin’s only game in the previous eight that he was held in single digits (two points). 

Given how poorly two of Duke’s stars played relative to their usual performances of late, it does not bode well that the Cavaliers will be able to stifle Banchero and Griffin again. In addition, Wendell Moore has averaged 13.5 points per game in the three games since being held to single digits by Virginia, and one would expect him to contribute more tonight as well.

Duke lost by one point on their home floor to Virginia despite committing ten more turnovers and out-rebounding the Cavaliers by eight. And as well as Virginia played defensively, Duke was able to get to the rim with reckless abandon, as they attempted 22 free throws to Virginia’s nine. 

All told, the numbers suggest Duke should have won the first meeting comfortably, and they are deserving road favorites in this matchup. The Blue Devils are the only ACC team that ranks in the top 22 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency (per KenPom), and they are a superiorly talented team to Virginia at nearly every position on the court. 

Four points may seem like a lot to lay, given that six of the last eight meetings between these teams have been decided by one or two points. However, we do not think Virginia can match what was their best all-around effort of the season in the first meeting. Duke is 5-3 ATS as road favorites, and we look for them to earn a big road win in Charlottesville. 

Duke vs. Virginia Line Movement

Duke vs. Virginia Pick

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Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest

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