The Blue Zone is back with our usual prop bets, only as football season ends we will transition to giving you our can't lose prop bets for every Duke men's basketball matchup:
Duke (-28.5) vs. Bellarmine
Coming off a less than impressive performance in the opener with Coppin State and a tough loss to Michigan State, the Blue Devils hope to get some momentum going in this matchup against Bellarmine. Meanwhile, in their season opener, the Knights face a harsh welcome to Division I basketball, having just moved up from Division II.
Against such an unfamiliar opponent as Bellarmine, the average bettor might expect nothing less than a massive blowout by the Blue Devils. Frankly, this expectation disregards some of the quality of the Bellarmine program and overlooks Duke’s early struggles. Though the Knights just recently joined Division I, they aren’t new to high-level competition. Last year, Bellarmine played both Louisville and Notre Dame close, losing by just 10 points in each game. Furthermore, with the Knights’ high field goal percentage and small-ball style of play– carrying ten guards and just one center on the roster–they have the potential to keep up with scoring from players such as Jalen Johnson and Matthew Hurt.
Duke’s first two games have cast doubt on their ability to control a game from start to finish. Having beaten Coppin State by just 10 points and having lost to Michigan State, it’s difficult to imagine Duke covering a 28.5-point spread. Though Bellarmine will almost certainly fall short in this matchup, I like them to cover the spread.
Pick: Bellarmine +26 or better
Over/Under 147.5 Points
In Bellarmine’s first game as a Division I team, there is very little past history to base any estimations of their transition to top-level college basketball. As such, the total of 147.5 seems like little better than a random guess. Though there is limited evidence to predict the scoring in this matchup, I turn to the Knights’ games against Louisville and Notre Dame last season, in which the total averaged just 126 points. Bellarmine did average 77.8 points per game last season, but their low-scoring affairs with Louisville and Notre Dame tell an interesting story which would suggest lower scoring against Duke. Though Duke may provide a bit more offensive firepower, I don’t expect a shootout.
So far this season, the Blue Devils scored 81 points against a weak opponent in Coppin State and failed to clear 70 points against Michigan State, despite a late flurry of points in a fruitless effort to chase down the Spartans. Facing Bellarmine’s small lineup, forwards Johnson, Hurt and Jaemyn Brakefield should be able to take control of the paint and provide efficient scoring. Even with this post presence, the Blue Devils early turnover problems and largely individual playing style don’t point to offensive dominance. All signs indicate another lower-scoring game Friday night, so I have to recommend betting on defense instead of offense in this matchup.
Pick: Under 147.5
Matthew Hurt Over/Under 14.5 Points
In the first two games of the season, Matthew Hurt has led the team with 16.5 points per game while shooting at a clip of 44 percent from the field. Though the freshmen should continue to get more involved in the offense as the season progresses, head coach Mike Krzyzewski will still look to Hurt—as a team leader for the Blue Devils—to set a strong footing in Friday’s game.
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Hurt led the team with 36 minutes against Michigan State, as he made his way to a game high 21-point performance. However, in a matchup that is heavily in Duke’s favor, Hurt is unlikely to receive as many minutes Friday. As discussed above, Bellarmine’s small lineup will give Hurt a chance to score inside, and I’d expect him to get off to a hot start. Though he may not reach 21 points again, Hurt should be able to score at least 15 points and cover this prop bet.
Pick: Over 14.5