Better Passing Game Makes Duke the NCAA Basketball Pick Over Utah

David Lawrence

Saturday, December 19, 2015 12:54 PM GMT

Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 12:54 PM GMT

The Utah Utes and the Duke Blue Devils met in last March’s NCAA tournament. Duke won in the Sweet 16 in the South Regional semifinal in Houston. Who will be our NCAA basketball pick?

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Duke -6.5 
Best Line Offered: at Bet365

 

Momentum
The Utes have lost only twice, and are generally doing well, although this team does not seem likely to match the standards set by last season’s team. The Utes no longer have Delon Wright, who hooked up with the Toronto Raptors of the NBA. Jakob Poeltl and other veterans have still enabled Utah to remain a solid team, especially on defense. The Utes will remain in almost every game they play precisely because they can defend and limit opponents even when they struggle to score themselves. However, missing Wright’s scoring is something which figures to hurt Utah at times. The Utes’ offense can bog down, as seen in their recent loss to Wichita State. The Utes did not have a dependable second or third scorer in that game, and that’s going to continue to be a concern for this team as it moves along. Utah’s perimeter players will need to develop their games in ways which will enable them to create their own shots, instead of needing a pass or some other help to set them up. The Utes’ success might very well depend on how much versatility their guards can develop as players in the coming weeks and months.

Duke has lost only once, to Kentucky. Other than that, the Blue Devils have been very solid this season. The Blue Devils haven’t played the most punishing opponents, but against a talented Indiana team two weeks ago, Duke cruised to an easy win, and that’s something a lot of other college teams would not have been able to do. The Blue Devils are young and untested, and they did watch three freshmen depart after last season for the NBA, but they do have a lot of athleticism, and that could be bothersome for Utah.

Must Read: NCAA Basketball Winning Strategies

Home-Away Trends
This is a neutral-site game in New York, played inside Madison Square Garden. Utah is playing its fourth neutral-site game of the season, having gone 2-1 in its previous three games. The Utes went 2-1 in the San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico, beating Texas Tech and Temple but losing to Miami.

Duke is 2-1 in neutral-site game as well, playing its fourth neutral game of the season this Saturday. The Blue Devils lost to Kentucky in Chicago, but they beat VCU and Georgetown in New York. Duke’s familiarity with Madison Square Garden – a stop in many of the past few seasons for the Blue Devils – could play to its advantage against Utah.

 

Injuries
Utah guard Brandon Miller left the team. Guard Kenneth Ogbe is questionable for this game with a hip injury.

Duke forward Amile Jefferson is out indefinitely with a foot injury.

 

What’s The Pick?
Duke is a 6.5-point favorite on the NCAA basketball odds. Duke knows how to handle neutral courts better, and the Blue Devils are familiar with New York, where they should have a partisan crowd. Take Duke with your NCAA basketball picks.

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