After getting off to a rough start, Jon Scheyer has the Duke Blue Devils humming en-route to a potential ACC title. Their first matchup is against Pittsburgh as a -6 favorite, getting the advantage of going against tired Panther legs. With an improved defense over the past couple of games, my prediction is that we will see limited scoring opportunities that result in the under cashing.
Pittsburgh Vs. Duke Prediction
Please note that I originally took Duke at -4.5, yet that number has already reached void status by climbing up to as high as -6.5 in some shops. Instead of taking a position on Duke controlling the game, I will bet the correlated under as I still like the current number of 141.5. Duke’s identity has taken a massive identity change this season, playing a more methodical pace that runs through star big man Kyle Filipowski.
While it looked iffy at first with eyebrow raising results, the Blue Devils have now found their groove with other players stepping up in production. Filipowski no longer has to take full control, now stepping aside as Jeremy Roach and Tyrese Proctor play more of a playmaking role. Even in the increase of secondary scoring help, Duke has maintained their offensive identity by letting half court develop at a slow rate. They finished the season ranked 293rd in Adjusted Tempo per Kenpom.
The offense still runs through Filipowski, playing an inside-out style approach. He has control over the first read, either opting into an isolation drive on the block or taking advantage of a double team and kicking out to an open shooter. The difference as of late is that Duke is making the extra play, constantly looking to generate the best scoring option possible. They finished the season ranked 61st in this department, averaging 14.5 assists per game.
Just because Duke has improved as a passing unit, doesn’t mean that their offense is without serious flaws and that bodes well for our under. Like last year, Duke in the halfcourt set still has trouble creating space on the perimeter. Filipowski has helped in this area as a true scoring threat, yet others are still having trouble generating looks at the rim.
Duke has remained a weak three-point shooting team, shooting 32.9% from deep and 26% in their last three contests per TeamRankings. Even as a weak defensive unit, Pitt can sag down and throw more bodies at Filipowski until Duke starts hitting from deep. This stalls out his playmaking, potentially creating stalled out possessions.
Pittsburgh Vs. Duke Prediction: Under 141.5
Pittsburgh Vs. Duke Odds
As mentioned earlier, oddsmakers opened the Blue Devils as a -4.5 favorite, yet that number took action right away. Bettors were quick to pounce on them, taking Duke up to as high as -6.5 as of writing. While I was able to get down on them on the opening number, I could not in good faith recommend a wager higher than -6 as that was my cutoff.
Instead, I am correlating my Duke bet with the expected game flow as this is shaping out to be a defensive slugfest. Bettors are thinking the same, taking this number down to 141.5 after it opened up at 142.5. Even with an improved offensive flow, Duke has serious shooting problems that can generate scoring lulls. Pitt may also play towards the slow pace, conserving energy after no rest from their previous matchup.
Pittsburgh Vs. Duke Key Matchups
Duke perimeter defense vs Pittsburgh shooting
Perimeter woes seem to be a consistent theme for the Blue Devils, yet for the betterment when on defense. While they struggle at generating their own clean looks from deep, they excel at limiting opposing looks from the arc. Duke’s ability to limit the three-pointer is a key reason for my Pittsburgh Vs. Duke prediction of the under cashing.
They hold opposing offenses to an elite defensive three-point rate, possessing a defensive completion percentage of 30.8%. That is good for 26th best in the nation per TeamRankings.
This doesn’t bode well for the Pittsburgh offense as they will look to continue shooting at a high clip from deep as a 36% three-point shooting team. Especially since they are outmatched in the interior with Filipowski anchoring the paint.
Take the under as this is shaping up to be a defensive slugfest between Duke’s elite defense and Pitt’s ability to stall out their interior scoring.