Surging Virginia and struggling Duke meet for the first time this season

Duke basketball (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)
Duke basketball (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images) /

The surging Virginia Cavaliers and struggling Duke basketball team will meet on Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville, and seeding for the ACC Tournament is on the line.

Two teams trending in opposite directions will take the floor in Charlottesville on Saturday evening in the Duke Blue Devils and the Virginia Cavaliers.

If you are just catching up on college basketball from earlier in the season, you’d assume that Duke is rounding into form while Virginia is struggling to put things together after losing so many pieces after its National Championship season.

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Well, just the opposite is true.

The Blue Devils lost two of three, both coming on the road, and the losses were by a combined 34 points to North Carolina State and Wake Forest, neither team being that overwhelming on the season.

Wake Forest was the most recent loss for Duke. The Blue Devils choked away a nine-point lead in the closing minutes and lost in double overtime by 12 points.

Virginia has won five straight games and eight of its last nine with its most recent victory coming on the road against in-state rival Virginia Tech, where the Cavaliers only gave up 11 points in the first half, yes 11 points in 20 minutes, although Virginia only won 56-53.

Tony Bennett‘s team is led by point guard Kihei Clark and forward Mamadi Diakite, who average 10.8 and 13.6 points per game, respectively.

Diakite will be a matchup nightmare for Duke, standing at 6-foot-9, and has the ability to step out on the perimeter and is very agile when moving his feet.

Potential Blue Devils who could be matched up with Diakite? Vernon Carey Jr., Matthew Hurt, Javin DeLaurier, Jack White, and now we have to throw Justin Robinson‘s name into that hat.

ALSO READ: Justin Robinson, present and future leader

Certainly, Duke fans will not be that confident in any of those players to stick with Diakite, for a variety of reasons, but perhaps the lack of scoring throughout the rest of the Cavaliers roster could allow the Blue Devils to double team the All-ACC player.

Virginia also relies on guard Braxton Key and center Jay Huff for scoring, who both combine to average 17.9 points per game, while Tomas Woldetensae is one of the Cavaliers’ most dangerous 3-point shooters at 37.8 percent, the best on the team.

The Hoos only average 57.6 points per game, but their defense is one of the best in the country, and Duke will need a complete 40-minute performance to come away with a much-needed victory, something that the Blue Devils haven’t been able to put together against a quality opponent since Florida State back on February 10.

Duke had things all lined up to be the No. 1 seed heading into the ACC Tournament, but Tuesday’s loss to Wake Forest ruined all those plans. Now with a loss to Virginia, the Blue Devils would fall to the No. 4 seed in the conference.

ALSO READ: Now is not the time for Blue Devil fans to panic

The Blue Devils and Cavaliers will tipoff at 6:00 pm EST from the John Paul Jones Arena, and the game can be seen on ESPN.

How confident can you be picking Duke to win? Not very. But this team plays to the level of its competition, so maybe the Blue Devils will play well on Saturday, but who really knows at this point, and that’s very concerning for the last day of February.

PREDICTION: Duke 67, Virginia 61