With the Blue Devils squaring off against Georgia Tech in Cameron Indoor Stadium tonight, the Blue Zone gets you ready with some can't-lose bets:
Duke (-5) vs. Georgia Tech
Sitting at .500 and amidst a rare three-game skid, Duke basketball still holds quite the lead in the standings over the few die-hard Blue Devil bettors left. Through ten games now, the team holds a miserable 1-9 record against the spread, even losing straight up as a favorite twice on its recently concluded road trip.
You may share my shock, then, when I opened up my computer late Monday afternoon to find that Duke had opened as a 4.5-point favorite against an underrated and persistent foe in Georgia Tech. Yes, the Blue Devils are set to play at home for the first time in weeks, but is it not clear by now that homecourt advantage throughout college basketball is worth far less than usual, let alone at Cameron Indoor Stadium?
There is certainly a scenario in which the Blue Devils are reinvigorated by their return to Durham and motivated by their recent struggles to earn a statement win, running the Yellow Jackets off the court with minimal resistance. But the more logical, likely outcome is one in which we see once more that bookmakers everywhere are still too hesitant to reevaluate Duke basketball in a unique year, and in this case, their ever-undervalued opponent—who has now covered four in a row with ease after nearly stealing a win in Charlottesville just days ago.
While it may be fairly clear that I side with the visitors in this spot, I would still urge that you proceed with caution: cover machines like Georgia Tech tend to struggle against unprofitable teams like Duke. I have elected to pass over this based on what I see as too much of a homecourt boost, but I still would not suggest a wager at anything less than the opening line.
Pick: Georgia Tech +5 (to +4.5)
Over/Under 141.5 Points
Much of the college basketball world, myself included, watched on in awe Saturday as Georgia Tech nearly toppled then-No. 13 Virginia on the road. Outside of Notre Dame–the third-ranked offense in the ACC and 24th nationally, per KenPom—no ACC team has scored more against the vaunted Cavaliers defense in regulation than the Yellow Jackets did in the narrow 64-62 defeat. Factor in the team’s tempo, or lack thereof, and their recent string of offensive outbursts leading up to the Virginia game becomes even more impressive.
Across the scorer’s table, the home team should expect to break out of somewhat of an offensive slump Tuesday night. Consistency problems remain within the Blue Devil offense, but the turnovers and spotty shooting that plagued the team on the road these past few games should be somewhat alleviated at home, and it is only a matter of time until a few more open looks from outside start to fall.
This total is already trending downwards from the opening number of 142.5, an understandable situation given that neither team plays at a high tempo. Nonetheless, I have little doubt that at least one or the other of my outlandish confidence in Georgia Tech’s scoring or my unwavering support for Duke’s offense will pay off, and that should be enough. I like the over to 144.
Pick: Over 141.5 (to 144)
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Jose Alvarado Over/Under 19.5 Points
Georgia Tech’s standout senior point guard has been, quite frankly, a revelation. Already a capable scorer and facilitator through his first three seasons, the Brooklyn product has suddenly become an elite three-point and free throw shooter, has improved his assist-to-turnover ratio and is pacing the conference yet again in steals. Entering the game with a career-high 17.4 points per game and having scored at least 20 points in four of his last five, Alvarado could be the latest beneficiary of a Duke defense that has recently struggled against top options such as Pittsburgh’s Justin Champagnie and Louisville’s Carlik Jones. But even though I like Georgia Tech’s offense to keep them in this game, I trust that Duke’s stellar coaching will make the necessary adjustments, routing the opposition’s production away from their top scorer. The under is the play.
Pick: Under 19.5