(9) Louisville Cardinals at (3) Virginia Cavaliers (-7, 120 o/u)
Two of the best teams, not only in the ACC, but in the nation will go head-to-head later today as the No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers (20-1, 8-1 ACC) host the No. 9 Louisville Cardinals (19-3, 7-2 ACC) at John Paul Jones Arena, in Charlottesville (7:00 p.m. Eastern).
After losing to Duke at home in mid-January, Louisville has reeled of four straight ACC wins, including three on the road. Arguably the most impressive of the bunch was the lone home game against the North Carolina Tar Heels. Rick Pitino’s squad trailed UNC by 18 in the second half, yet clawed their way to a 78-68 OT win.
The Cardinals are not a great shooting team, averaging just 43.9-percent from the field. But what they lack in accuracy, they make up for in attempts. Louisville dominates on the glass, pulling down 39.6 boards per game (15th in the country), and all the second-chances have the team averaging just over 73 points per night (ninth in the nation).
The best weapon Louisville has in its arsenal, though, is a tenacious defense. The squad surrenders under 60 points per game and, last time out, held the Miami Hurricanes to just 55 points on 34-percent shooting.
“We did a lot of stuff away from the court,” Louisville sophomore Chris Jones said after the win over Miami. “Coach gave us a lot of time to free our minds and not think about basketball. We took it as a business trip, but also as a vacation. A lot of guys went to the beach and the mall and did a lot of things. Coach believes in us, and we got a victory.”
Louisville will put its impressive 5-1 road record to the test tonight against the Cavaliers. Virginia lost its first game of the season just last week (69-63 at home against No. 4 Duke). But they rebounded with a 75-64 win over North Carolina on Monday. Junior guard Malcolm Brogdon led the way for Virginia with 17 points.
“I think we have maturity, I think we have experience,” said Brogdon after the win. “I think we have poised guys. I [thought] we’d come out and handle business to the best of our ability, at least on our end, and see how UNC responds.”
Despite the recent setback to Duke, Virginia remains on top of the ACC. At 8-1, the Cavaliers will need to string a couple wins together to stay ahead of 9-2 Notre Dame.
Turning to the trends, Louisville is 7-1 SU in its last eight road games. Virginia, meanwhile, is 23-2 SU in its last 25 at home. We like the Cavaliers to win by a bucket or two but, betting-wise, that means take the Cardinals and the points (-7).
(Photo credit: Thomson20192 (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)