The fifth-seeded Utah Utes may not have the fanfare of some other ‘big name’ hoops programs like their Sweet 16 counterparts, the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils, but what the Utes do have is a group of overachieving ballers that know how to get the job done, no matter who they’re playing. Thanks to this expert March Madness NCAA Basketball betting breakdown on the Utes’ Sweet 16 showdown against Duke, you’re going to find out if the Utes have what it takes to actually dispatch the incendiary Blue Devils.
Analyzing the No. 5 Utah vs. No. 1 Duke Sweet 16 College Hoops Odds Match Up
When: 9:45 PM ET, Friday, March 27, 2015
Where: NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
Odds: Duke -6
— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) March 26, 2015
No. 5 Utah (26-8 SU, 21-11-1 ATS, 15-16-1 O/U)
Led by hard-nosed point guard Brandon Taylor’s team-high 14 points, four players scored in double digits as Utah beat No. 4 Georgetown 75-64 in the third round. Utah is led in scoring and assists (14.7 and 5.2 per) by gifted sophomore shooting guard Delon Wright while getting a team-high 6.7 rebounds and 9.1 points per game from 7-foot freshman center Jakob Poeltl. The Blue Devils will clearly need to stop both players in this contest. “He can knock it down. He is really good,” said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters. “Wright is one of the top guards in the country” and Poeltl “is a really good player and he is going to be a big-time pro.”
The Utes average a solid 71.7 points per game (67th) and are also one of the best defensive teams in the country as they limit their opponents to just 56.9 points per contest defensively (11th).
No. 1 Duke (31-4 SU, 20-14-1 ATS, 18-15 O/U)
While the Blue Devils suffered a convincing 74-64 loss to Notre Dame in the ACC tournament, Duke has won a scorching 14 of their last 15 games overall. The top-seeded Blue Devils have suddenly turned into a monster defensively, limiting five of their last seven opponents to a miniscule 57 points or less, including NC State, Syracuse and most recently, San Diego State in their commanding 68-49 win over the Aztecs in the third round. The Dookies got a game-high 26 points from gifted center Jahlil Okafor on 12-of-16 shooting from the field while Quinn Cook added 15 points and Justise Winslow, 13 points. With his latest effort, Okafor became the first freshman in school history to score 20 points or more in each of his first two NCAA Tournament games.
Winslow however, has been a big difference-maker in the NCAA Tournament according to his teammates. The freshman big man has put up .5 points, 11.5 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks over the two-game stretch. “It’s big,” Cook told reporters after his team’s win the last time out. “I know (Winslow)’s going to see all his family – all his family is going to be there. It’s just great to move onto the next round. I know one of his goals was to get to a Final Four, so we got (to Houston), where we can complete it.”
Okafor is averaging 23.5 points per game since the start of the tournament and has shot an incendiary 21-of-27 from the field along the way while Cook has increased his production to where he is averaging 18.5 points per game since the start of March Madness.
My Expert Game Analysis and Prediction
I really like the underrated Utah Utes, but I simply can’t bring myself to back them with the way the Blue Devils are playing defense lately. Duke has gone 7-1 SU in neutral site games this season and Utah’s Wright has struggled in shooting 2-for-7 in each of the last two games. The Blue Devils are more explosively offensively than the Utes and undeniably have a huge coaching advantage in almost every game they play. Duke has gone 2-0 ATS in their two tourney games and an impressive 4-1 ATS over their last five games overall.
While Utah has gone 5-1 ATS in their last half-dozen neutral site games, the Utes are also just 5-5 ATS over their last 10 games and that just doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence if you ask me. Blue Devils are 4-0 ATS in their last four non-conference games and 6-1 ATS in their last seven games overall. Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, the Blue Devils will win and narrowly cash in!
The Pick: Duke 77 Utah 69