NCAA Tournament Picks: Utah vs. Duke

Ross Benjamin

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 3:01 PM GMT

Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2015 3:01 PM GMT

Can Utah neutralize Duke’s transition game? Will Duke get frustrated by the slower pace that Utah prefers to play at? We have those answers & much more pertinent details regarding this matchup.

Top Seed Duke will be tested versus Utah
The #1 seed Duke Blue Devils will square off with the #5 seed Utah Utes in the South Regional semifinals on Friday. The game will be played in Houston, Texas and the opening tip is slated for 9:45 PM ET. According to the NCAA Tournament betting odds at The Greek, Duke is a 5.5 point favorite, and the posted total is 135.0.

 

Utah is a Defensive Lion
The Utah Utes are an excellent defensive team which is allowing only 56.9 points per game, and are holding opponents to a miserable 38.9% from the field. With the exception of the first ten minutes of their third round win over Georgetown, they’ve exhibited that superb aspect of their game during the NCAA Tournament. Utah received a very tough draw in their second round game versus a vastly underrated Stephen F. Austin team. The Lumberjacks averaged 78.6 points per game (11th nationally) this season, and also shot a terrific 48.7% from the field (6th nationally). In Utah’s 57-50 win over the Lumberjacks, they held them to a dismal 33.3% shooting from the field. Utah has gone under the number in their last seven games this season when the total was 131.0 or more.

 

Duke just being Duke
Duke went about their first two NCAA Tournament games in a very businesslike manner. They crushed Robert Morris by 29, and covered that contest as a 23.0 point favorite. The competition became a bit stiffer in round three, but the Blue Devils were unfazed in a 19-point rout of a very good San Diego State team, and easily covered as a 9.0 point favorite. The most impressive part of those two wins was their play on the defensive end of the floor. They allowed only 53.5 points per game, and held those two opponents to a paltry 34.7% from the field. Duke has now gone under the total in each of its last four, and six of their previous seven games.

 

Final Analysis
This is a relatively low total for a Duke game and for very good reason. I look for Utah to make a concerted effort in slowing the pace of the game down, and also focusing on neutralizing the vaunted offensive transition game of Duke. Utah can ill afford a track meet with Duke if they’re to have a reasonable chance of winning. The good thing about Duke is they have the ability of adjusting to any style, and are successful in do so on the majority of occasions. I like this one to play on the low side of the number for one of my NCAA tournament picks on Friday.

Free NCAA Tournament Pick: Play on Utah and Duke to go 'Under' the total of 135.0 at The Greek.

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