The Blue Zone brings you our prop bets for Duke's matchup with NC State:
Duke (-3) vs. N.C. State
Duke’s 93-89 loss to Notre Dame on Tuesday not only gave the team an unprecedented second three-game losing streak within a single season, but it also marked the third game in a row and seventh time this season in which the Blue Devils lost outright as the favorite. Despite a pair of scorching offensive performances this past week against the rival Tar Heels and the Fighting Irish, a suddenly unwatchable defense has Duke under the .500 mark and in peril of missing out on the postseason.
Even after a tough week, the Blue Devils will still arrive in Raleigh on Saturday as short favorites against the Wolfpack. Sitting just below Duke in the standings at 4-7 in conference play, N.C. State recently lost top scorer Devon Daniels— who was averaging 16.5 points per game this season—to injury, lacks a quality win and has been plagued by inconsistency against the spread all season long. So, while Duke’s favorite status may come as a surprise to some, it feels right to me that oddsmakers opted to side with the more talented of two struggling teams.
If the Blue Devils want to emerge victorious, however, they will have to play better defense after allowing over 90 points in consecutive games. The Wolfpack are by no means elite offensively, but they rank fifth in the ACC in scoring at 74.8 points per game and shoot the three at an impressive 36.1% clip. Even so, the Wolfpack—who attempt a fairly low amount of three pointers relative to the rest of the ACC—are not nearly as likely to capitalize on Duke’s weak perimeter defense as other opponents have been able to recently.
In the end, the Wolfpack are remarkably inconsistent and will likely struggle to capitalize on the perimeter without their top scorer in Daniels. And whether or not you believe in the ability of Duke’s defense, their sizable offensive improvement after adjusting the starting lineup has gone largely overlooked as the losses pile up. The least bit of resistance at the point of attack should be enough to help Duke, which should score at ease, run away with this one before too long at all.
If you aren’t convinced yet, head coach Mike Krzyzewski turns a year older on Saturday, and the legendary coach is 9-4 with a five-game winning streak on his birthday. The stars have aligned. Roll with the Blue Devils.
Pick: Duke -3 (to -5)
Over/Under 148.5 Points
After back-to-back games in which the Blue Devils and their opponent blew past the total by over 30 points, it is curious to see that oddsmakers have done little to adjust for Duke’s offensive explosion and subsequent defensive implosion. Saturday’s total opened at 150, just slightly higher than the closing numbers of 147 and 147.5 in losses to the Tar Heels and the Irish, respectively.
Generally speaking, it is unwise for those who operate behind the scenes to drastically adjust totals based on one or two off-putting results. But as I mentioned earlier, I am fully ready to coronate Duke as an offensive juggernaut behind their new starting lineup. I have an enormous amount of respect for future lottery pick Jalen Johnson, but the decision to move Matthew Hurt back to his natural position at power forward and start a true center has done wonders for this team’s scoring, and even makes Johnson a terrifying sixth man that opposing coaches must now account for.
All this makes for the perfect spot to take advantage of the number. Almost laughably, the public is actually betting this total down from the opening number to its current value at 148.5. Do not overthink this: take the over, kick back, and enjoy the fireworks with supreme confidence.
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Pick: Over 148.5 (to 154)
First Half Over/Under 69.5 Points
Far too often, bettors ignore first half lines and totals in favor of the full game alternatives. That makes sense, of course, but there is a lot of value to find here—these totals are set as derivatives of the full game number, and account for the fact that the second half is usually higher scoring. Because of this, first half totals are often relatively low.
Apologies for sounding like a broken record, but Duke is an over machine right now, and that trend applies to the first half as well, with an enormous 95 combined points between the Blue Devils and the Irish in the opening frame on Tuesday. Bank on the Blue Devils and their opponent to stay hot in Raleigh from the start, and take the over yet again.
Pick: Over 69.5