A log-jam right behind North Carolina top the ACC will be–slightly–cleared up on Wednesday night, as No. 12 Duke travels to Charlottesville to take on No. 14 Virginia in what is undoubtedly the marquee matchup of the day.
The Blue Devils are red-hot, winning five in a row overall and three straight since Mike Krzyzewski returned to the sidelines, while the Cavaliers enter having lost three of their last five, most recently dropping a double-overtime stunner to in-state rival Virginia Tech.
There’s no over-stating the importance of this one. With each squad still to play North Carolina (Duke one more time, Virginia twice), the winner of this one will be close to controlling its own destiny for a conference title.
Here’s a preview of what to expect:
Duke vs. Virginia Betting Info
Date: Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Time & Channel: 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Spread: Virginia (-4)
Moneyline: Duke (+170); Virginia (-200)
Duke vs. Virginia Prediction
The Hoos may have lost three of their last five, but it’s no reason to panic. Teams often go through little spells of inconsistency throughout the season, and besides, the three losses–which have all come away from John Paul Jones Arena–have been by a combined eight points.
Meanwhile, their two wins during that stretch were a 23-point thumping of the same Virginia Tech team that beat them in double overtime and a 16-point win over an undermanned but still talented Louisville team.
If there’s talk of Virginia’s demise, it’s far premature.
That said, Duke is surging at the right moment. Finally at full capacity after an array of injuries–both on the court and to their Hall-of-Fame head coach–and other tripping-related incidents, the Blue Devils boast wins at Notre Dame and at home against ACC leader North Carolina the last couple of weeks. They recently stumbled a bit against Clemson but still demonstrated poise to win.
Ultimately, this one will come down to who controls the tempo.
Duke has no problem turning it into a track meet, but Virginia, which ranks 350th in the country in adjusted pace, would much rather slow the game down and win with its stifling defense.
In many cases, it’s the home that ends up dictating the style, which should give the edge to Virginia. Moreover, beating Duke often comes down to being able to contain Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard, and Virginia has a littany of terrific perimeter defenders in London Perrantes, Darius Thompson and Marial Shayok to make the Blue Devils very uncomfortable.
With their back approaching the wall after their recent stretch, Virginia gets the key win at home.
Prediction: Virginia 68, Duke 62