While still sitting decently in their standing for the NCAA tournament, Louisville basketball faces a very difficult test this Saturday when they travel to Cameron Indoor for a matchup against Duke.
It’s a game on paper that looks a lot different than the first between the two historic programs. In the late January meeting, Duke had come into the game losing two straight and sitting on a 5-4 record with no real answers to speak of. Louisville also entered the matchup as a team losing two straight but with a 9-3 standing. Louisville won the game.
Since then, a lot has happened with both of these programs. Louisville faced their Covid issues for a multitude of weeks and has undergone growing pains that signify a young team while playing just four games in the process.
Duke has turned into a buzzsaw lately
Duke looked like a team that was dead in the water with a 7-8 overall record. But a surge over the past couple of weeks that included rattling off four wins in a row (including a marquee win over Virginia) has seen them rise to a “First Four Out” standing in Joe Lunardi’s “Bracketology.” That would still leave them on the outside looking in. But they’re certainly within striking distance.
Additionally, five-star freshman forward Jalen Johnson decided to opt out of the rest of the season on Feb. 15 sparking some drama. But, since then, Duke has won three straight games and have looked quite strong in doing so.
There’s no doubt that this is a dangerous team as March approaches. Freshmen guards DJ Steward and Jeremy Roach have been pouring in contributions in addition to star forward Matthew Hurt. Duke is playing some of their best basketball after the drama with Johnson subsided.
Louisville dealing with sickness
David Johnson and Josh Nickelberry’s statuses remains up in the air heading into the weekend. Head coach Chris Mack mentioned that neither are Covid-related sicknesses.
Obviously Johnson is a huge component to this team and is undoubtedly one of the team’s most talented and productive players. Getting him back for the game against Duke is important, but is far from a guarantee at this time.
Of course, Malik Williams has also returned and that has completely changed how Louisville’s team operates.
This matchup has a way different feel from a month ago with even more on the line as the regular season winds down.
This is no longer the Duke team from a month ago. It’s a whole new dangerous animal.