Last Updated: 2019-03-23
The AAC representative UCF Knights will face off against the ACC champions Duke Blue Devils in the second round of the East Region at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina, this Sunday, March 24, 2019. Both teams will have huge support from the stands, and the No. 1 seed Duke is set as a 13-point favorite with the total at 143.5 points and the No. 9 UCF at the +700 money line odds in the first ever head-to-head duel between these two schools. The Knights defeated VCU in the previous round, while the Blue Devils outlasted North Dakota State.
The UCF Knights rolled past the VCU Rams 73-58 in the first round of the East Region thanks to excellent shooting performance, while they played some tough defense as usual. The Knights made 49.1% of their field goals including nine triples out of just 14 attempts from deep. On the other side of the ball, they limited the Rams on 31.1% shooting from the field, allowing just six assists to their rivals. The Knights scored ten straight points in the last four and a half minutes of the first period to take a 34-24 lead at halftime, keeping the foot on the pedal in the second half. Tacko Fall dominated the Rams in the paint, posting 13 points and 18 rebounds, while Aubrey Dawkins added 14 points and seven boards.
The Knights rely a lot on their defense, allowing 93.3 points per 100 possessions (24th in the country) on 45.2 effective field goal percentage (11th) while playing at a very slow pace with 66.5 possessions per 40 minutes (304th). The 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall is a great rim protector, averaging 2.6 blocks per game along with 11.0 points and 7.7 rebounds. The Knights are scoring 111.4 points per 100 possessions (43rd) on 52.8 effective field goal percentage (80th) and 36.1% shooting from beyond the arc (87th). The senior guard B.J. Taylor is driving the Knights’ offense, tallying 16.0 points and 3.3 assists per game, while the junior guard Aubrey Dawkins is averaging 15.1 points per contest on 45.3% shooting from the field.
On the other side, the Duke Blue Devils thrashed off the North Dakota State Bison 85-62 in the first round. They struggled in the first half, leading just 31-27 at the break, but Zion Williamson got the things going in the second half to lift his team over the Bison. Zion finished the game with 25 points on 12-of-16 shooting from the field, while R.J. Barrett also had a great night with 26 points and 14 rebounds. The Blue Devils shot 50.8% from the field and made 14 assists, and the coach K was pleased with the second-half performance, stating that was some beautiful basketball. All in all, it was a good start for Duke’s freshmen.
The Blue Devils are scoring 118.7 points per 100 possessions (8th in the country) on 53.5 effective field goal percentage (55th). Duke’s biggest flaw is 3-point shooting, as the Blue Devils are making just 30.5% of their attempts from beyond the arc (331st). They play at a very fast pace with 74.0 possessions per 40 minutes (17th). Duke’s defense is among the best in the country, surrendering just 88.4 points per 100 possessions (5th) on 44.6 effective field goal percentage (9th). The coach K relies on a bunch of freshmen, as Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish are key players in this Duke team. Williamson is averaging 22.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game; Barrett is posting 23.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per contest, while Reddish is adding 13.6 points and 3.7 boards per outing.
Pick: Duke Blue Devils -13.0 & Under 143.5 points
The Knights’ only hope is to slow down the tempo as much as they can. They need their defense at the highest level possible, while Tacko Fall has to stay out of foul trouble. However, I don’t think the Knights will find the way to damage Duke’s tough defense, as they lack offensive firepower, especially off the bench, while the Blue Devils’ offense works like a well-oiled machine. Duke is 4-5 ATS in its last nine outings as a double-digit fave, but the Blue Devils are 5-2 ATS in their last seven second-round games in the NCAA Tournament. They are simply a better team than UCF in all aspects of the game, so I’m backing them to cover.
Also, I don’t think we’ll see a high-scoring affair, as both teams can play tough D. The Knights will try their best to slow down the Blue Devils, while I don’t see how they will replicate their offensive display from the first-round clash with VCU. The under is 9-2 in Duke’s last 11 games when the Blue Devils were listed as double-digit favorites, and it is 11-2 in the Knights’ previous 13 outings as double-digit underdogs. Likewise, the under is 6-1 in Duke’s last seven outings, and it is 4-1 in UCF’s previous five games overall.
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