The last Sweet 16 game in Omaha features 11-seed Syracuse and 2-seed Duke. Syracuse pulled off an impressive upset by taking down the 3-seed Michigan State Spartans, 55-53, on Sunday. Duke absolutely dismantle the 7-seed Rhode Island Rams by the score of 87-62 on Saturday. Duke saved their season by using a defensive scheme that Syracuse has used for decades — the 2-3 zone. In the first half of their season, Duke had played primarily man-to-man defense with inconsistent results. After switching to the zone, Duke has been a much tougher opponent. The two met in ACC play down in Durham this year, with the Blue Devils winning handily, 60-44. Can Duke dispatch Syracuse easily once again? Check out our March Madness betting preview for this regional semifinal matchup.
Duke vs. Syracuse March Madness Betting Preview for Sweet 16
— Duke Basketball (@DukeMBB) March 22, 2018
When: Friday, March 23, 2018, 9:37pm ET
Where: CenturyLink Center, Omaha, NE
Live Stream: March Madness Live
March Madness Betting Odds: Duke -11.5, O/U 133.5
Why should you bet on the Blue Devils?
Duke has made both of their NCAA tournament foes look silly in big wins over Iona and Rhode Island. In the win over the Rams, Duke simply could not miss, shooting 57% from the floor and 48% from downtown — while Rhode Island made less than 40% of their shots from the floor. Gary Trent Jr. was the leading scorer for Duke in the win, putting up 18 points along with five boards, four assists and three steals. Those 87 points Duke scored was pretty close to their season average of 84.9, as Marvin Bagley III (21.2 points per game), Grayson Allen (15.6), Trent (14.4) and Wendell Carter Jr. (13.6) have all put up double-figure averages.
Duke has covered the spread in nine of their last 11 games and in five of their last six games on a neutral floor. Even though Duke scored almost 25 points below their season average when they met Syracuse earlier this season, they still won by 16 points. Can Duke manage to beat Syracuse by double figures once again, or will the tournament resurgence help the Orange keep this closer?
Why should you put your money on the Orange?
The 2-3 zone clearly befuddled the Michigan State shooters on Sunday, as the Spartans made just 26% of their shots on the day, including 22% from three-point land. The Orange were only able to put up 55 points, but it was enough for the win. Oshae Brissett led the team with 15 points and also put up nine boards, a steal and a block. The Orange only average 66.7 points per game, as they don’t have a proven scorer who knocks down shots night in and night out, and their reliance on the zone means that they like to play a grinding style that takes place mostly in half court sets, rather than pushing a high-speed transition game. On the season, Tyus Battle has led the team with 19.3 points per game, with Brissett (14.9) and Frank Howard (14.6) also averaging in double figures. Despite playing that zone, Syracuse tends to win the rebounding battles (by an average of almost four per game).
Given how things went the first time these two teams faced off, and given the trouble Syracuse has had in generating consistent offense this year, you might think that taking Duke is a no-brainer here. However, something happens to Syracuse in the Big Dance. They have covered the spread in seven of their last eight games in the NCAA tournament and in five of their last six games on a neutral floor. If you like Syracuse here, you think that they can slow the pace down (not a bad argument since Duke will be looking to slow things down with their zone approach as well).
Expert Pick and Final Score Prediction
While Syracuse is up to their usual tricks in the NCAA Tournament, I just don’t see them keeping up with Duke — the Blue Devils simply have too many offensive weapons. With that said, I don’t see Duke winning by 12 points or more. I’m predicting a final score of Duke 70, Syracuse 63.