(8) San Diego St. v. (1) Duke
Time: 2:40 PM ET, TV: CBS
Spread: DUK -9.5
M/L: DUK -650; SDS +425
Betting odds c/o Bovada
San Diego State won its second round matchup over St. John’s by a score of 76-64 and set the stage for what could be a nice run from a team most may have been sleeping on. Will it be able to overcome the vaunted Duke Blue Devils? NCAA basketball oddsmakers seem to think not, setting the line 9.5 points in favor of Coach Mike Kryzewski’s Blue Devils. The total for the contest is set at 129, and given the Aztecs low scoring, this even seems precariously high.
As hinted, the San Diego State Aztecs play a slow paced grind it out game, which leads to some deceptively poor stats. SDS shoots just 41.9 percent from the floor in scoring 61 points per game, and it doesn’t really board much better than average. Even so, it had reeled off four straight before losing by two points to Wyoming to close its season.
A simple look at the Aztecs’ stats reveals some ugly numbers. Its top two scorers both shoot 42 percent or less from the floor and average 11 points a piece. Winston Shepard, a 6’8” junior forward, struggled badly in the loss to Wyoming, hitting just 2 of 10 from the field. He’s a very on and off shooter, which gives this game a very strange element for the bettor.
Two of his past five games have seen him shoot over 55 percent from the floor, while the other three he was 23 percent or worse. Not a big minutes player, he still offers more offensive versatility than the rest of his team, and can step out and hit the three at a reasonable 32 percent. His foul shooting is troubling at 66.2 percent and he’s not much of a playmaker on the defensive end, but the Aztecs just don’t allow opponents to penetrate its defense that much.
On the other side of a very different coin: 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.
Duke turned it around (predictably) against No. 16 seeded Robert Morris. The Devils won by 29 points, covering the 22.5 point spread set by college basketball oddsmakers. Coach K unsurprisingly rested Jahlil Okafor about half the game, but that didn’t stop him from amassing 21 points in 21 minutes, missing just two of his 11 field goal attempts.
Duke led by 17 at the half, and cruised throughout the second. It gave a couple walk ons a few minutes on the court, while also getting a chance to take a closer look at Amile Jefferson, who responded quite well with 10 points and six boards. The Devils shot 63 percent from the floor and held Robert Morris to 36 percent. This is the stuff of 16 vs. 1s that we’ve grown accustomed to.
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). He got it together last game against Robert Morris, knocking down 6 of 10 from behind the arc, and it seems to be a good sign that his stroke is back. He’s a consistent and deadly shooter and key behind Duke’s success, notwithstanding that Okafor’s the supreme talent on the team.
And at its best, there is plenty of help for Okafor. 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.