Duke vs. UConn NCAA Basketball Picks: Huskies to Keep It Close?

Darin Zank

Thursday, December 18, 2014 7:13 PM GMT

Duke is 9-0 this season, 6-3 ATS, as NCAA odds makers continue to peg the Dukies with big numbers. They're double-digit favorites again for Thursday night's game against UConn in East Rutherford.

Huskies-Blue Devils Betting Odds
Most of the NCAA Basketball odds market opened this game with Duke favored by 10.5 points, and that spread was holding steady in the early betting. Also, the total on this contest opened at right around 139, then dropped half a point, to 138.5.

Bettors who think UConn might pull the upset in this spot could get a price of +515 on the moneyline at 5Dimes.

 

Huskies-Blue Devils: The Match-Up
UConn returned just one starter this season from the team that unexpectedly won the National Championship last year. The four guys they had to replace, led by Shabazz Napier, combined to average 45 points and 15 boars per game last year, so there are holes to fill.

The Huskies opened this season 3-0, with wins over Bryant, Charleston and Dayton, but then lost three games in a row, to West Virginia, Texas (on a 3-pointer with two seconds left) and Yale (again, on a 3-pointer with two seconds left).

Sunday the Huskies snapped their skid with a 106-85 victory over Coppin State in a game that wasn't lined.

UConn shot just 30 percent from the floor against the Longhorns, and 44 percent against the Bulldogs, but 57 percent against Eagles.

Duke returned three starters this season from a team that went 26-9 but got upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season. The Blue Devils lost a couple of good ones in forwards Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood, who combined to average 35 points 12 boards per game last season, but as they do almost every season they just replaced great talent with more great talent.

Duke is off to a 9-0 start to this season, and in winning several games in blowout fashion it's also been able to go 6-3 ATS. The Blue Devils opened with easy victories over Presbyterian and Fairfield, covering at -39 and -32, then beat Michigan State 81-71, covering at -8, Temple 74-54, covering at -17, and Stanford 70-59, covering at -10.

Wins over Furman and Army followed, although the Dukies couldn't quite cover at -41 and -27. Twelve days ago, though, Duke went up to Big Ten country and beat Wisconsin in Madison 80-70, winning that game outright as a four-point underdog.

Last time out, Monday night, the Blue Devils led Elon by 15 points at halftime, but actually got outscored in the second half, winning 75-62 but coming up way short of covering the spread at -32.

Duke shot 52 percent from the floor Monday and held the Phoenix to just 42 percent shooting, but the Devils made just three of 16 shots from beyond the arc, went just 14/27 from the free-throw line and committed 17 turnovers.

Last time out Duke started a senior, a junior and three freshmen, while the Huskies started a senior, three sophomores and a freshman.

These two perennial contenders last met five seasons ago, when Duke beat UConn in a defensive struggle at Madison Square Garden 68-59, covering as a four-point favorite.

 

Huskies-Blue Devils Key Numbers
Duke is shooting just under 54 percent from the field this season, which ranks fourth-best in the country, but just 68 percent from the FT line. And free throws can come in handy when trying to cover a spread as a 10-point favorite. The Blue Devils are also limiting opponents to just 40 percent FG shooting.

UConn is shooting 45 percent from the field this season, but just 29.5 percent from 3-point range. The Huskies are also holding foes to 40 percent shooting.

 

Huskies-Blue Devils Betting Trends
Duke is 4-3 on the totals this season, as Blue Devils games have averaged 148 points.

UConn is 2-2 on the totals, as Huskies games have averaged 131 points.

 

Blue-Devils-Huskies Free Pick
Duke is very likely to win this game, but we're a little leery of that FT percentage. When the Devils are up by 10 with two minutes to go will they close out the cover from the line, or allow UConn to sneak in the back door cover? We're concerned the latter might happen. And the Huskies can play enough defense to keep this one close. So we'll take UConn and the points for our free NCAA Basketball pick in this spot.

Free College Basketball Pick: Huskies +10.5 at The Greek