Round of 32 NCAA Tournament on CBS: (9) UCF Knights vs. (1) Duke Blue Devils

(9) UCF vs (1) Duke

Time: 4:15 PM CST (CBS)

Spread: DUK -13

Total: 143.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

UCF

The Knights ranked top-30 defensively this season limiting opponents to just 64.3 points per game. UCF averaged 72.1 points per game itself, and it went 0-1 against ranked opponents (a lone loss to then-No. 12 Houston in conference play). The Knights have not had tests from the top programs, but it fared well with its soft schedule.

The Knights are led by guards BJ Taylor and Aubrey Dawkins, and senior center Tacko Fall made outstanding contributions at the 5-spot for UCF. Taylor and Dawkins combine to average 31.2 points per game in the backcourt, while Fall added 10.9 points, a team-high 7.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game—anchoring a strong Knights’ defense. Chad Brown also blocked a shot per game for UCF, and the Knights average 5.7 steals and 4.5 blocks per game. UCF also keeps its own turnovers down, committing 11.8 per game while shooting 35.4 percent from three on just 596 attempts this season. The Knights’ backcourt of Taylor and Dawkins took over half of those looks, with Taylor knocking down 36 percent and Dawkins over 39 percent.

Fall is a 7’6” 310-pound monster who has really blossomed into his now-senior season. He is averaging roughly the same point and rebound production as his junior year, but he has really become a more fierce shot blocker as time has gone on. When Fall blocks three shots or more, the Knights posted an 11-3 record this season, illustrating the disruptive effect he had on opposing slashers and big men. Fall had 12 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks in the 55-79 loss to Memphis in the American Conference tournament, and he has had three or more blocks in four of his last 10 games.

Fall was an absolute monster in the tournament opener for the Knights. He finished with 13 points, 18 rebounds, and five blocks in just 28 minutes. UCF shot 49 percent from the floor and 9 of 14 from three (64.3 percent). BJ Taylor and Aubrey Dawkins combined to shoot 11 of 25 for 29 points between them. The Knights led VCU by 10 points at the half and maintained control in the second half despite its 15 team turnovers. UCF limited VCU to just 31 percent shooting and held a plus-8 advantage on the glass. The Rams also committed 12 turnovers and hit just 6 of 26 from three. UCF’s defense will need to be at least this good to have a shot at knocking off Duke in Round 2.

DUKE

The 30-5 Duke Blue Devils are the tournament favorite, with 61 percent of Yahoo brackets selecting Duke as the 2019 champion. It handily defeated North Dakota State 85-62 in the first round, and this team is easily the most talented on paper in the entire field. But will that be enough?

Duke defeated Florida State, Syracuse, and North Carolina to close its season, but it did lose two of four before that, with losses to then-No. 20 Virginia Tech and a 70-79 loss at North Carolina. The Blue Devils simply have so much offensive talent, though, and it averages 83.5 points per game while limiting opponents to just 67.4 (no. 65). The Blue Devils welcomed Zion Williamson back for the tournament after the dynamic forward suffered a foot injury due to his shoe blowing out in the loss at UNC.

Williamson averaged 22 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for Duke this year, and RJ Barrett averaged 23 points and 7.7 rebounds. The pair accounted for 45.2 points between them, a good bit over half of Duke’s total scoring. Finding a way, perhaps foul trouble, to eliminate either from the equation could ultimately turn this into a real game. If both are able to play big minutes, Duke is the double-digit favorite for that reason. Williamson and Barrett are both expected to be drafted in the top-3 in July.

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