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Jamal Shead #1 of the Houston Cougars reacts as we offer our Duke vs. Houston expert picks and prediction for the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
Jamal Shead #1 of the Houston Cougars reacts after a foul call during the second half against the Texas A&M Aggies in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at FedExForum on March 24, 2024 in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images via AFP.

The Duke Blue Devils and Houston Cougars face off Friday in a Sweet 16 clash between two college basketball titans in the NCAA Tournament, as we offer our Duke vs. Houston picks and best bet for the March Madness showdown in Dallas.

The fourth-seeded Duke Blue Devils (26-8) will be put to the test Friday against the No. 1 Houston Cougars (32-4) in the Sweet 16 following a lopsided victory over James Madison in the Round of 32. Houston is a 4-point favorite (-110) across our best sportsbooks for this game, which tips off at 9:39 p.m. ET from American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Coming off a tense win over the Aggies on Sunday, the Cougars are still among the favorites by both the March Madness odds and Final Four odds as they take on a tough Blue Devils team. Duke beat the Dukes, a trendy upset pick, by 38 points and have handled business so far through the tournament. However, they haven't played a guard as talented as Houston's Jamal Shead.

As part of our March Madness predictions, here are our best Duke vs. Houston picks and best bets (odds via our best March Madness betting sites; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

For more Round 3 betting action, see our Sweet 16 expert picks, and our Sweet 16 player props and best bets.

Duke (4) vs. Houston (1) game info & odds

  • When: Friday, March 29
  • Tip-off: 9:39 p.m. ET
  • Where: American Airlines Center, Dallas, Tex.
  • How to watch: CBS
  • Favorite: Houston -4 (-110 via bet365)

Duke vs. Houston prediction

Jamal Shead Over 6.5 assists ⭐⭐⭐

Best odds: +100 via FanDuel

No guard in college basketball is more important to his team's success than Shead is to No. 1 seed Houston. He's the best defensive player in the country on the best defensive team in the country, and most years he would have challenged in the Wooden Award odds. What has worked against Shead, a consensus All-American, is the fact he's often a pass-first point guard who looks to set up his teammates.

That's part of the reason the senior is averaging just 13.2 points per game this season, but a team-leading 6.4 assists. He's been at another level as a playmaker down the stretch this season, too. Shead's gone Over 6.5 assists in seven of his last 10 games and he's averaging eight assists per game over that stretch. He's even taken it up another notch through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, where he's averaging 9.5 assists per game.

While Duke has a strong defense - it's 19th in adjusted efficiency, per KenPom - it allows 12.5 assists per game, the 50th most in the country. It allowed the third most APG in ACC play (12.6). Shead should be capable of working Duke's guard combo of Jared McCain and Jeremy Roach to get open looks for LJ Cryer and Emanuel Sharp, who combined for 28.3 points per game.

With Shead racking up assists as of late, and Duke giving up more than most teams in the country, we love the value of the even-money odds at FanDuel. The same prop is -115 at both DraftKings and bet365, which implies a 53.49% probability Shead hits the Over, according to our odds calculator. But with our +100 odds, a $10 wager would fetch a $10 profit with a winning ticket.

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Caesars is boosting the odds for Duke to win and Creighton to cover +4.5 in the Sweet 16 from +345 to +360. Offer valid for all eligible U.S. users. Just click here!

Duke vs. Houston spread & Over/Under analysis

Houston opened as a favorite of as few as 3.5 points across our best sports betting apps after needing overtime to beat Texas A&M. The line has since shifted a half-point in the Cougars direction and Houston could be -4.5 by tip on Friday night. The Cougs have struggled ATS though, going just 17-17-2 this season while Duke is 20-13-1.

As it does with most Houston games, the spread opened low and remains there at just 134. The Cougars' defense allows the fewest points in the country (57.7) and the Blue Devils aren't too far behind (66.5), which is why this total could shrink to as low as 132.5. Houston is 20-16 for Under bettors this season and Duke is 21-13.

Duke-Houston prediction made Wednesday at 12:55 p.m. ET.

Here are our best March Madness betting sites:

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