NCAA Tournament Picks: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Duke Blue Devils

Joe Gavazzi

Monday, April 6, 2015 1:57 PM UTC

Monday, Apr. 6, 2015 1:57 PM UTC

Our expert NCAA Basketball handicapper explores tonight's final matchup between Wisconsin and Duke.  Join us in reading this betting preview article before placing your NCAA tournament picks.

Wisconsin (-1/139) vs. Duke 9:20 ET CBS
At 9:20 ET, the Duke Blue Devils match up with the Wisconsin Badgers to decide the 2015 NCAA Men’s CBKB Title. Duke is currently lsited as short underdog on the posted NCAA Tournament oddsThis is a matchup of No. 1 seeds, who have similarities as well as differences.  Before analyzing those, it may be important to note that these two met earlier this season in the Big 10 ACC clash at the Wisconsin Kohl Center.  In that December 3rd matchup, Duke emerged an 80-70 winner.  It was the lone home loss for Wisconsin, who won every other home game by 7 or more points, outscoring the opposition by an average score of 75-56. Though past results are not always an indicator of current realities, it should certainly be noted that Duke was able to outlast the unique style of Wisconsin. The question then becomes, does Wisconsin get their lone home court revenge or are the fundamentals such that Duke will again have an advantage?  


Wisconsin is led by veteran 14th year HC Bo Ryan.  His coaching leaves an indelible mark on his team every year.  Ryan’s coaching philosophy is characterized by 3 basic tenets. (1) Take care of the basketball. The Badgers lead the nation with under 8 offensive TOs per game. (2) Move your feet on defense resulting in few fouls.  Wisconsin leads the nation in fewest fouls committed. (3) Rebound the basketball. Wisconsin has a +6 net TO margin.  They were +12 in the rebound column against Kentucky on Saturday, a main reason for the victory.  At this time in the Tournament, however, Wisconsin often meets its’ demise because of their lack of athleticism.  This, however, is Ryan’s most athletic team.  That includes 1st round NBA draft picks, Kaminski and Dekker (arguably, the only 2 players on the Wisconsin roster who could have cracked Kentucky’s Top 10).  Yet, both those “bigs” will be a nightmare for the Duke defense.  With supporting cast including such underrated players as Hayes on the interior and Gasser, Jackson and Koenig on the perimeter, the team features outstanding offensive cohesion and unity. It is hard to admit that an opposing coach might have the better of it against the experienced Ryan, but the numbers for Duke and Coach K might certainly imply that fact.

Find more NCAA Tournament Picks for Wisconsin vs. Duke

Coach K’s longevity of 35 years and over 1,000 victories also includes the fact that Coach K’s Duke teams are now playing in their 9th Championship game with 4 Titles to their credit.  That includes the 2010 Title on this very floor with a victory against Butler. Normally, it would be a negative for a team to play a Championship game with 3 freshman starters. Especially, when going up against a more mature roster of Wisconsin players, who have 3 years of age and college experience on them.  Clearly, however, Okafor, Winslow and Tyus Jones are not your ordinary freshmen.  With Quinn Cook providing senior leadership in the backcourt with Jones, the all-important edge at the guard position is clearly in favor of the Blue Devils.  In their Saturdaymatchup against red-hot Michigan St., Duke outshot the Spartans (52-40%) and romped to a 20 point victory, despite making just 2 of 10, three pointers on the night.  A +5 rebound margin against the normally strong rebounding edge of the Spartans is a further indicator of how well-rounded this team is!  YTD numbers might imply that the Badgers have the superior defense, but the Duke defenders have been outstanding the entire Tournament. In their 5-0 SU ATS NCAA Tourney sweep, in which they have won their contests by 19.5 PPG covering by an average of 9 PPG, it is has been the Duke defense that has come to the fore.  In fact, they have allowed an average of just 55 PPG.  That is superior to that of the Wisconsin defense, who allowed an average of 56 PPG this season, but who has allowed 70 PPG in the Tournament.  


From a technical perspective, Wisconsin is a play against team based on the fact they have 3 consecutive pointspread victories, the last 2 of which have come in the role of underdog.  In NCAA Tournament play, that is a greater than 70% ATS PLAY AGAINST situation, including the Finals.  Though I don’t expect Wisconsin to be flat for this game, those results are clearly factored into this line. In the final analysis, I favor the greater championship game coaching experience of Coach K, the superior guard play of the Blue Devils and a Duke defense that is peaking at the right time. That being said, my NCAA Tournament pick for the contest will also come with the OVER in a game where I do not see the Duke offense being denied.   

NCAA Tourrnament Pick: Duke 

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