North Dakota State
Duke got two less days to prepare for its opponent, but that’s not going to matter when these teams take the cOurt. The Blue Devils are the No. 1 overall seed and heavy favorites to win it all, and won’t have any problems as long as they try. They opened as -27 point favorites (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) over North Dakota State, which beat NC Central on Wednesday in Dayton.
It’s not the easiest situation the 16-seeds are put in with all of the travel they have to do after learning of their placement in the bracket on Sunday. For NDSU, it had to go to Dayton on Wednesday and presumably fly immediately to South Carolina for this Game. The main question is how much Duke is going to win by.
The Blue Devils rank sixth in the country on both ends of the cOurt in terms of efficiency. They lost only one Game with a healthy roster (Gonzaga) and destroyed similarly rated teams in non-Conference play from beating Eastern Michigan by 38 points to Hartford by 30. Sure, a lot of those big wins came at home, but sometimes home cOurt doesn’t mean anything when you’re playing someone like Zion Williamson.
The biggest issue is that North Dakota State is all about offense and not defense, which isn’t a strategy that will work against Duke. The Bison have the least efficient defense in the Tournament and couldn’t do anything against NC Central’s big man, who had 20 points and 16 boards. Not only should Zion Williamson have his way in the paint, but also Javin DeLAurier (or Marques Bolden if healthy) and even RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish will have decent size advantages. In an equal matchup earlier in the season, Gonzaga beat NDSU 102-60 and a similar result is possible here.
The best chance the Bison have to cover is if they catch fire from three. They have a solid offense for a mid-major, but they also shoot a ton of threes. Tyree Eady, Jared Samuelson and Cameron Hunter are all over 41%, but those numbers will probably look a little different against Tre Jones, as well as the length of Barrett and Reddish. Tyson Ward came up big in the play-in Game with 23 points, but there’s a chance he’s marked by Zion and that probably won’t end well for him.
Even if NDSU hits 10 threes, it still may have trouble covering because of a bad defense. The Bison will also struggle to Scoredown low against a stronger and bigger team. On the other end, NDSU just has to hope that Duke takes a bunch of threes and misses them all. Otherwise, the Blue Devils could be headed for 100 points just like Gonzaga. There will likely be no resistance against Zion and the same probably goes for Barrett and Reddish because NDSU simply doesn’t have the bodies to match up with NBA lottery picks.
A lot of the money will go on Duke only because it’s Duke. But this Game could get pretty ugly for the Bison if they don’t hit their shots and a 40-point Duke win isn’t out of the cards. Throw in the extra travel and that doesn’t help, either.