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The Virginia Cavaliers will look to continue its recent upward swing when they visit the fifth-ranked Louisville Cardinals at the KFC Yum! Center. Virginia enters the contest on a three-game winning streak and is now fourth in the ACC Conference, three-and-a-half games out of first place. Louisville is also streaking having run off nine straight games and currently sits atop of the standings, holding a game-and-a-half lead over seventh-ranked Duke and eighth-ranked Florida State.
Virginia has won nine straight over Louisville and leads the all-time series 15-4. The Cavaliers have also posted a 7-3 record against the Cardinals in Louisville, which includes winning four of five at the Yum! Center.
Virginia Has The Nation's Top DefenseVirginia (15-6, 7-4 ACC) is coming off a 51-44 victory over Clemson on Wednesday as the Cavaliers scored the first seven points of the game and led 26-14 at halftime. After the teams traded baskets to opened the second half, Clemson went on a 12-3 run to get within 36-34, but a Braxton Key three-pointer kept the Tigers at bay as the Cavaliers never trailed in the game. Key finished the game with 19 points on six of 13 shooting from the floor and four of six from beyond the arc to go along with eight rebounds.
Mamadi Diakite contributed 13 points along with eight rebounds as well as two blocks. Jay Huff added 10 points and 10 caroms along with four blocks. Both teams made 17 field goals with Virginia shooting a tad bit better than Clemson at 37%-to-32.7%, and the Cavaliers finished with one more three-pointer (7-6). However, the difference in the game was at the foul line where the Cavs were 10-for-17, while the Tigers were just 4-for-7.
Virginia has won four of five games overall and has a 61% chance of making the NCAA Tournament, according to Teamrankings.com. UVA is currently 57th in NCAA Net Rankings as the have three Quad I victories. The Cavaliers, who are 2-1 against ranked teams, is 3-3 on the road. It has been Virginia's defense that has propelled the Cavaliers, who are the nation's most efficient defense per KenPom. They rank first in the country in scoring defense (50.4) and field goal percentage defense (35.6), third in personal fouls per game (13.3), and 26th in 3-point field goal percentage defense (28.9).
Diakite, who leads the team with 13.5 points and seven rebounds, needs to be aggressive on the offensive end for the Wahoos to have any offensive success -- UVA is 10-3 when the 6-9 forward attempts at least 10 shots. Diakite has scored in double-figures in each of his last three games and has produced 13.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in six road contests this year. Key is the only other player averaging double-figures (10.7) and tops the team in rebounding at 7.4 a game as well as steals (1.6). Key is very versatile and has compiled 47 points, 33 rebounds, five steals while shooting just 30.9% from the field and 36.3% (4-11) from beyond the arc over the last four games. Point guard Kihei Clark (9.8 points, six assists) had just one point against Clemson, but the 5-9 sophomore doled out 10 assists, marking the ninth time in 13 outings that he registered at least six assists. Huff (8.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 blocks) produced his third double-double of the season on Wednesday. While the 7-1 junior has been very inconsistent scoring and rebounding the ball, Huff has generally been very good at providing rim protection and has swatted 15 shots away over the last five outings. Tomas Woldetensae, Kody Stattman, and Casey Morsell are also key contributors.
Louisville Is Humming Heading Into Saturday's ClashLouisville (20-3, 9-1 ACC) overcame a 15-point deficit to defeat Wake Forest 86-76 at the KFC Yum! Center on Wednesday to keep its winning streak alive. Trailing 46-34 at halftime, the Cardinals used an 18-5 run to take the lead and outscored the Demon Deacons 52-30 over the last 20 minutes of play. Jordan Nwora led six players in double-figures with 21 points, on six of 12 shooting from the floor and five of eight from beyond the arc, to go along with seven rebounds. Dwayne Sutton posted his fifth double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Ryan McMahon and Lamarr Kimble each knocked down three treys and finished with 12 and 14 points, respectively. Steven Enoch, as well as Malik Williams, were the other two players in double-figures.
With the ACC having a down year, Louisville can not lose to anyone that they are supposed to beat if the Cardinals want a top NCAA Tournament seed. The Cardinals, who are given a 59.1% chance of claiming the conference regular-season title, are currently projected to be a No. 2 seed with a 25% chance of earning a top seed in the Tournament. The Cards are seventh in NET Rankings as they are 13-3 in Quad I and II games. They are also 13-1 at home with the lone loss coming to Florida State in the first game of the new year.
Nwora leads six players who average at least six points a game with 19.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. The 6-7 junior forward is capable of lighting up a scoreboard though he has been inconsistent during ACC play. Still, Nwora has scored in double-figures in nine of his 10 conference games, which includes five 20-point contests, while also grabbing at least five boards on nine occasions. Enoch (10.1 points, 6.1 rebounds) can handle the middle, but he tends to disappear at times on both ends of the floor. Sutton (9.5 points, 8.5 rebounds) is also inconsistent, but he fills the stretch-4 role nicely and can be a monster on the boards. McMahon (8.8 points) is a sharpshooter who has racked up 35 points over the last two games as he has drained 10 of 15 attempts from beyond the arc. Williams, Darius Perry, Kimble, and David Johnson, along with Samuell Williamson, are other key contributors.
- Cardinals are 3-0-1 ATS in their last 4 Saturday games.
- Cardinals are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games following an ATS loss.
- Cardinals are 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record.
- Cardinals are 3-1-1 ATS in their last 5 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Cavaliers are 4-9 ATS in their last 13 games following an ATS loss.
- Cavaliers are 4-11 ATS in their last 15 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record.
- Cavaliers are 5-14 ATS in their last 19 games overall.
- Cavaliers are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
- Cavaliers are 2-11 ATS in their last 13 games following a straight-up win.
- Cavaliers are 0-8 ATS in their last 8 games after allowing less than 50 points in their previous game.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
While Virginia needs a victory on Saturday more than Louisville, I believe that the Cavaliers will ultimately make the NCAA Tournament, which is good news for Wahoo fans as this game could get ugly. I am taking Louisville, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Cardinals ran away with it as they have too much firepower for UVA, which struggles mightily to score. The Cardinals, who will have the best player on the court in Nwora, can score inside and out as well as an outstanding offensive rebounding team. Plus, they have enough size and depth in the frontcourt to neutralize any perceived advantage that the UVA big men may have. Besides, the UofL is playing some of its best basketball of the campaign over the last five games. The Cards are averaging nearly 80 points, and over 10 treys a game while shooting at a 47.3% clip overall and 45.7% from beyond the arc during this stretch.
Prediction: Louisville -7
Full-Game Total Pick
Although both teams like to play at a deliberate pace, I am going with the over here as I believe that the 114 point total is a tad too low. Louisville is rolling, and Virginia has struggled a little bit at guarding the three-point line on the road. Plus, the Cardinals are one of the most efficient shooting teams in the nation with an effective field goal percentage of 53.7%, and they do an excellent job at hitting the offensive glass, grabbing 32.3% of all available boards on that end of the floor. I also expect Virginia to break the 50-point mark. Moreover, the over has hit in five of the Cardinals' last seven games.
Prediction: Over -114