South Region Blowout Special: (1) Duke vs. (16) Robert Morris

Mike Krzyzewski-duke-11(1) Duke v. (16) Robert Morris
Time: 7:10 PM ET
Spread: DUK -22.5
Total: 143

Betting odds c/o Bovada

There’s seldom a lot of intrigue (nor betting action) in these No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchups, but Duke isn’t quite the blowout team it has been in years past. That isn’t to suggest in any way that its second round opponent Robert Morris can pose a challenge since 16 seeds just don’t win, and never have. But betting the spread in this offers more intrigue than the likes of the Kentucky game Thursday evening. Early NCAA basketball odds at Bovada showed Duke as 22.5 point favorites.

Duke can score—flat out. The Blue Devils averaged 80.6 points per game while knocking down over 50 percent from the field. It assists 15.5 times per game and also takes care of the boards. It’s a winning formula, but Duke still has a tough climb to get to the Final 4 this year. Moreover, coach Mike Kryzewski and the Devils fell in the ACC tournament to then-No. 11 ranked Notre Dame.

In the loss Duke allowed Notre Dame to shoot 50 percent from the floor and also gave up 25 free throws, which ND fully took advantage of, hitting 22. Even though Duke held a plus-7 edge on the boards, no one outside of Jahlil Okafor really did very well. The top prospect shot 13 of 18 from the floor for 28 points, while collecting eight rebounds and swatting a couple shots. If nothing else, Okafor’s skills on the blocks will be enough to carry Duke deep in this tournament.

Guard Quinn Cook is ordinarily a dead eye shooter, but he hit just 2 of 12 vs. the Irish and though Justise Winslow turned in a strong double-double, outside of Okafor and Winslow the rest of the Duke squad shot just 9 of 34 from the floor, which is woeful help for Okafor. He’s the type of talent that can definitely carry a team, but it won’t be enough against the tough squads on the other side of the bracket (Wisconsin, Arizona and Kentucky most specifically).

At its best, there is plenty of help. Duke had four players average 11 points or more this season and Okafor posted 17.7 points and nine rebounds per game while also coming up with 2.2 blocks/steals. He’s not a shot blocker, but he is a shot changer. That, combined with Winslow’s propensity to hit the boards, and Duke is rendered pretty strong on the interior. Combining that with five shooters hitting 37 percent or better from three, and Duke will have the skills to blow out opponents. Prior to that disappointing loss to the Irish, Duke had reeled off 12 consecutive wins, four of which came against top-25 teams. Notre Dame was a tough opponent for Duke this year though, winning two of the three contests against a very formidable Coach K led team.

Robert Morris compiled a 20-14 record this season, and it was 8-8 in non-conference play. The Colonels didn’t face many tough squads (obviously) and its lone AP matchup went quite badly, losing 103-59 to the UNC Tar Heels. Perhaps the biggest win of the year for the Colonels was—well, none. Against the two other major programs it faced, Clemson and Georgetown, the Colonels were outscored by an average of 10.5 points. That alone should be enough to account for the 22.5 point spread. While Duke is an outstanding team, Robert Morris did close the season with seven straight wins and momentum is very important this time of the year. There won’t be heaps of betting action on this game, but bettors will be wise to consider the Colonels covering this spread.

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