No. 5 Duke has a marquee matchup at 10:30 p.m. Friday against No. 1 Gonzaga, who is an 8.5-point favorite, and this contest almost has too many storylines to count. There's the freshman matchup of Paolo Banchero versus Chet Holmgren, the battle down low between Mark Williams and Drew Timme and the dueling point guards of Jeremy Roach and Andrew Nembhard. And that's not even all of them. Here's who our beats think will come out on top.
Jake Piazza: Gonzaga 82-72
Drew Timme's 37-point performance against Texas is still playing on a highlight reel in the back of my mind. And say what you want about the merits of UCLA being ranked No. 2, but the the fact of the matter is the Bulldogs housed a very good Bruin basketball team. I think Chet Holmgren will play well against Duke, but ultimately Paolo Banchero is going to have a more impressive performance. Despite that, Gonzaga takes the win and covers in Las Vegas behind a monster game from Timme and another master class in how to run an offense from Andrew Nembhard.
Max Rego: Gonzaga 87-83
Let’s do this. Ever since this matchup was announced last November, I have had it circled on my calendar like this rest of the college basketball ecosystem. And now that the matchup is here, there are just so many things to look out for. How will Coach K try to contain the interior duo of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren? Will Jeremy Roach, who loves to operate at a frenetic pace, outduel the half-court-inclined Andrew Nembhard? Will the eight-point spread end up being accurate? My two cents is that Duke tinkers with a smaller lineup to put an emphasis on transition freebies, forcing some Gonzaga adjustments. Do not underestimate the impact that the Bulldog supporting cast will have, though, as Rasir Bolton and Julian Strawther can rip the nets from deep. This will be a close one, and I think eight points is likely a stretch here, but although the Blue Devils come out firing, Gonzaga finishes late to capture another huge victory.
Alex Jackson: Gonzaga 83-78
After watching Gonzaga manhandle UCLA Tuesday night, I think it’s common opinion that Duke may be in some trouble. The Blue Devils are about to take on a team that is stacked with talent and has proven to know how to use it. The Bulldogs have faced a spread of good teams now and have again and again shown that they can dominate the interior on both ends with Holmgren and Timme, run effficient transition offense and hit the open three. Despite Duke also boasting equal floor talent, I just don’t see it being ready to face up against the No. 1 team in the nation. I am very interested to watch the Williams/Holmgren matchup on the interior with Theo John roaring in to be a more physical body on Holmgren. Timme has been an absolute offensive force for Gonzaga this year. I don’t see Gonzaga being able to stretch the lead out to the eight-point spread, but I’m sure the writers over at the Daily Bruin said the same thing.
Sasha Richie: Gonzaga 78-76
This will be as difficult of a game as Duke will play all season. Gonzaga is the No. 1 team in the nation and for good reason. It’s not just beaten, but destroyed other top-five teams, and it has a depth of scoring at their disposal. However, the ranked teams the Bulldogs have beaten have been have not been defensively oriented, and Duke is. If the Blue Devils play to their strengths on the interior and are locked in defensively from the get-go, they’ll have a decent shot to come out with a win. More likely, however, the best team in the nation edges Duke, though I think whichever way the cards fall, it will be very close.
Micah Hurewitz: Duke 81-77
Gonzaga looked like the team we all expected it to be Tuesday against UCLA. The 3-point shooting, rebounding, defense—it was all there. But Duke has something UCLA doesn’t: size. Just by virtue of better matchups on Holmgren and Timme in Williams and Banchero, Duke can slow the Bulldogs' inside scoring like other teams couldn't. If the frontcourt plays like it has over the last few games and Moore, Keels and Roach can get the long ball going early, this one could end up being the Blue Devils’ to lose. It’s definitely a bold pick, but one I’ll take given what we’ve seen from each of these teams as of late.
Jonathan Levitan: Gonzaga 86-82
I’ve spent days going back and forth on this, and while I do think that Duke has as good a shot as anybody to take down the seemingly invincible Bulldogs, I have to side with Gonzaga. I truly don’t think this is too big a moment for the Blue Devils, but Gonzaga is coming off of a Final Four run, already has two top-five wins to its name and is playing its third straight game at T-Mobile Arena. Duke should cement its status among this season’s elite, but it won’t be enough to earn a win against college basketball’s finest.
Evan Kolin: Duke 72-66
We all saw what happened Tuesday night, when Gonzaga obliterated No. 2 UCLA on primetime television. But UCLA isn’t Duke. The Bruins just couldn’t match up down low with the Bulldogs like the Blue Devils can. Combine that with the fact that this might be the most hyped Duke nonconference regular season matchup in recent memory and I firmly believe Coach K will have his team ready.
Glen Morgenstern: Gonzaga 85-80
This Las Vegas matchup is for some seriously high stakes—whoever wins should be the No. 1 team in the country come Monday. The game could swing either way, but Gonzaga’s size and experience give it the slightest edge over the Blue Devils. Seven-foot phenom Chet Holmgren will challenge Duke’s Mark Williams in ways no player has. Timme seems as much an anti-Paolo Banchero as there is in college basketball, and a pair of senior guards should give the young Blue Devil backcourt some trouble. I expect the matchup to come down to the wire in typical Vegas fashion and for the Bulldogs to emerge victorious—but don’t count out Duke just yet. If the Blue Devils can convert from beyond the arc or force Holmgren into early foul trouble, Duke could have itself one of the most successful Black Fridays in recent memory.
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Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an associate sports editor for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously sports managing editor for Volume 117.
Jake Piazza is a Trinity senior and was sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.
Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.