UCF Duke Pick

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March Madness



Like a lot of ACC teams in the first round, Duke started slow, but then turned things up in the second half and almost covered despite the walk-ons playing the final few minutes. The Blue Devils will have a much harder test in this Game and won’t be able to start slow if they want to cover as -13.5 point favorites (and rising, at 5Dimes Sportsbook).

UCF is kind of in the same mold as Virginia in that it plays slow with an elite defense, highlighted by the 11th-ranked defense in the country in terms of effective field goal percentage. The problem is that the Knights go through long stretches of not scoring and a lot of their points come from the free-throw line, and not fouling is one of the many things Duke is good at. 

The Blue Devils may have some trouble if they force a few shots from the outside since that’s their biggest weakness, but at some point, they’re going to attack 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall in the middle. Either way, Fall rarely plays more than 30 minutes so when he’s not in there, Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett should have an easier time getting buckets at the rim against the likes of Collin Smith and Chad Brown. OUtside of Fall, UCF doesn’t exactly match up well with Aubrey Dawkins (6-6), Dayon Griffin (6-4), Terrell Allen (6-3), BJ Taylor (6-2) all tasked with mostly bigger players. It’s unlikely the Knights play entirely man due to the size discrepancies, but even if they play zone, most of Duke’s players can shoot over anyone they have on the cOurt. After playing just eight minutes last Game, it’s likely 6-11 Collin Smith will be on the cOurt longer. That will consistently give UCF two big bodies in the paint that Zion and company could have trouble with. If the Blue Devils struggle to get easy looks because of them, the underdog will have a chance to cover at a minimum.

However, going for the upset requires an all-around offensive effort from UCF. That means Fall and Smith taking advantage of Javin DeLAurier and Marques Bolden in the paint, but also leading scorer BJ Taylor (16.0 ppg) not getting locked down by Tre Jones, as that’s an issue a lot of teams run into against this Duke team. The problem is that Taylor has struggled offensively of late with just 32 points in the last three Games. If Taylor can’t find his shot, the rest of the scoring will go to Dawkins, who is also inconsistent and will likely be guarded by a taller Barrett or Reddish. 

UCF has a great defense, but that can only get you so far when you’re facing Four players that will be drafted into the NBA in a month. If Duke settles for shooting over this defense, it could be a close Game for the majority of the way, but unless BJ Taylor shows up Tre Jones, this isn’t a Game the Knights can win, as long as Zion and Barrett play their usual Game.

Our Pick – UCF +13

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