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Duke, UVA clash

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DUKE BLUE DEVILS (24-3) at VIRGINIA CAVALIERS (19-8)
 
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Pick ‘em & 129
 
Dominant at home this year, Virginia will host No. 3 Duke with a surprisingly narrow spread on this one.
 
The Cavaliers are 16-1 SU at home this year, including 15 consecutive wins. Overall, they are 12-2-1 ATS at John Paul Jones Arena, going 6-1 ATS in conference home games, with the lone blemish being a 3-point win over 3.5-point underdog NC State on Jan. 29. Duke has not played well on the road (2-5 ATS, 4-3 SU), but is coming off two straight wins with an average margin of 26.5 points. The Blue Devils are 17-1 SU in the past 18 meetings with UVa, winning the past eight games in this ACC rivalry by an average margin of victory of 15.8 PPG. The Blue Devils have covered their past three visits to Charlottesville with wins by 16, 18 and 15 points.
 
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These schools met just once last year, when 10.5-point favorite Duke hung on for a 61-58 victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium. PF Mason Plumlee led Duke with 12 points in that game on 5-for-6 shooting, but made things close with his 2-for-10 free-throw clip. This season, Plumlee (17.5 PPG, 10.7 RPG) has been much improved overall and at the line, hitting 66.2% FT and 16-of-21 FT (76.2%) in his past two games. This has helped him post two straight double-doubles (16.0 PPG, 13.5 RPG), adding 4.5 APG and 2.0 BPG in those contests. The other hot Blue Devils player is freshman SG Rasheed Sulaimon (12.4 PPG), who is coming off a career-high 27 points (10-of-15 FG) against Boston College. He’s averaging 20.0 PPG in his past three contests, making 7-of-13 threes in that span. PG Quinn Cook (12.1 PPG, 5.6 APG) takes care of the ball nicely for the Blue Devils (2.31 Ast/TO ratio) while senior SG Seth Curry (16.8 PPG) has been the team’s best perimeter scorer. He has double-digit points in nine consecutive games and is hitting 2.7 threes per game on a 43.7% clip for the season.

Cook, Sulaimon and Curry are all above 40% from deep, which is why Duke ranks fourth in the nation in three-point FG Pct. (41.6%). Senior PF Ryan Kelly (13.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG) remains out with a foot injury, so forwards Amile Jefferson (4.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG) and Josh Hairston (2.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG) will have to continue to step up. Jefferson pumped in 14 points (5-of-7 FG) in 21 minutes versus B.C. on Sunday, while Hairston has 8.3 PPG in 21.3 MPG over his past three contests.
 
The departed Mike Scott led Virginia against Duke with 23 points last season, and the only other double-digit scorer in the game for the Cavaliers was SG Joe Harris, who added 14. Harris (16.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG) is the premier scoring threat on a team primarily known for its defense. With its deliberate style of play, Virginia yields just 54.0 PPG, the fourth fewest in Division-I. Harris has been hot lately with five 20-point efforts in his last eight games, averaging 20.9 PPG over this stretch. The only other double-digit scorer for Virginia is PF Akil Mitchell (12.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG), the team’s primary post threat. At 6-foot-8, he’ll be tasked with battling Plumlee on the boards all night.

The other key to this offense is senior PG Jontel Evans (4.5 PPG, 5.3 APG). Evans is not much of a scorer, but can distribute the ball effectively (2.16 Ast/TO ratio) and harass opposing floor generals, something he will have to do against Cook for his team to have a shot at this upset. Evans has 15 assists and just one turnover in the past two games. Freshman SG Justin Anderson (7.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG) has been contributing more offensively, averaging 10.0 PPG games in his past 10 contests.
 

  
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