Duke vs. Utah Sweet 16 Preview & Prediction

Duke is in the Sweet 16 after two blowout victories over Robert Morris and San Diego State, and are hoping to continue that momentum against Utah, who have used their stifling defense to beat Stephen F. Austin and Georgetown.

Projected Starting Lineups

(1) Duke Blue Devils (31-4, 15-3 in ACC)

G Tyus Jones (Fr.) – 11.4 ppg, 5.8 apg

G Quinn Cook (Sr.) – 15.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg

F Matt Jones (Jr.) – 5.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg

F Justise Winslow (Fr.) – 12.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg

C Jahlil Okafor (Fr.) – 18.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg

(5) Utah Utes (26-8, 13-5 in Pac-12)

G Brandon Taylor (Jr.) – 10.5 ppg, 3.4 apg

G Delon Wright (Sr.) – 14.7 ppg, 5.2 apg

F Chris Reyes (So.) – 4.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg

F Jordan Loveridge (Jr.) – 10.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg

C Jakob Poeiti (Fr.) – 9.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg

What to watch for:

Utah's defense vs. Duke's offense

The Utes rank eighth in the country in points allowed per game (55.8) largely due to their size. Brandon Taylor is just 5’10″, but Wright, Reyes, and Loveridge are all relatively the same size, allowing them to switch effectively on the perimeter, and they're hoping that length can bother Duke's shooters.

Even with Okafor being the focal point on offense, Duke’s calling card is still long-range shooting.They make 38.9 percent of the three-pointers as a team, good for 37th in the country. Quinn Cook is the team’s leading shooter from behind the arc (41.5 percent), but every perimeter player Duke puts on the floor is capable of going off from long range.

Whoever gains the advantage on that end of the floor will win this game.

How will Utah guard Jahlil Okafor?

Okafor has a fully developed post game, quick feet, soft hands, and runs the floor well. The Blue Devils run their offense through him, and no one has been able to stop him all year. Utah will counter with seven-footer Jakob Poeiti, who is an excellent shot blocker (two per game). If he can limit Okafor's effectiveness while guarding him one-on-one, the Utes will have a major advantage.

Prediction: Duke wins 77-67

This is a classic strength-vs-strength matchup, and should make for some good battles – and high-quality basketball – when Utah is defending Duke. However, the game will likely be decided by who gains the edge on the other side of the floor, and Duke’s defense is much better than Utah’s offense.

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