Beats' picks: Can Duke men's basketball down Arkansas and move on to Final Four?

Big man Mark Williams has recorded at least three blocks in each of Duke's NCAA tournament games.
Big man Mark Williams has recorded at least three blocks in each of Duke's NCAA tournament games.

No. 2-seed Duke comes in as a four-point favorite in this Elite Eight matchup against No. 4-seed Arkansas in San Francisco. At the end of this one, the winner at Chase Center will come away with a spot in the Final Four in New Orleans and a chance at putting their team in the college basketball record books.   

Piazza: Arkansas 78-74

Duke had a great win against Texas Tech, but I think that will mark the final victory in head coach Mike Krzyzewski's storied career. The Razorbacks are another premier defensive unit, and JD Notae and company are two games removed from a 12-steal game against New Mexico State (Notae had eight of those steals). On the offensive end, Arkansas doesn't play with a true center, but 6-foot-10 forward Jaylin Williams is going to be a problem for the Blue Devils, not just as a scorer and rebounder but as a facilitator too. Duke will keep it close all game with all its firepower but in the end, Arkansas is going to be off to New Orleans. 

Rego: Duke 76-69

Arkansas’ profile is staggeringly similar to Texas Tech’s. Hovering in the 40-50 range in offensive efficiency, while simultaneously being two of the top defensive teams in the entire country. One thing that separates the Razorbacks from the Red Raiders, though, is the presence of a true go-to perimeter player in JD Notae. Efficiency is not the first word that comes to mind with the 6-foot-2 Georgia native, but he can still make you pay—just ask John Calipari after Notae dropped 30 on Kentucky back in late February. Duke has its hands full with Notae and Eric Musselman’s ability to devise a gameplan, but the four-point spread feels just right when you look at how Paolo Banchero, Mark Williams and Jeremy Roach are playing right now. Ultimately, Duke skirts by again and reaches its 17th Final Four. But this is no picnic.

Jackson: Arkansas 82-78

Listen, I know I keep saying Duke's run will end and it doesn’t, but this is actually the time it does. If you watched the Arkansas-Gonzaga game, you’ll know that the Razorbacks boast an elite defense and exceptional passing game. Duke seriously struggled with Texas Tech’s defensive prowess early on in Thursday's matchup and although the Blue Devils figured out how to work around it, I don’t see Arkansas letting up that easily in this one. The zone was able to save Duke defensively in that last game but I just think the Razorback passing will be able to pick apart any showing that the Blue Devils throw at them. If this is Coach K’s last game, what a run it has been.

Kolin: Duke 76-71

I can sense people overlooking this Razorbacks team. They beat all the top teams in the SEC during the regular season, and just took down the No. 1 overall seed two days ago, so this game will be as tough as any for Duke. But Arkansas also struggles heavily from three, and after the heart the Blue Devils showed throughout their last two wins I just can’t pick against them.

Morgenstern: Duke 74-70

The Blue Devils have what it takes to beat down the Razorbacks, but it won’t be easy. Arkansas is hot after defeating the overall No. 1 seed in Gonzaga. Jaylin Williams and Notae are no joke. If those two and the rest of the Razorbacks could contain Chet Holmgren’s Gonzaga, they are likely to keep a tight grip on Paolo Banchero. Coach K won’t let his team go down without a fight, though, and we should expect one Saturday night. Duke fought intensely to the end against Michigan State and scraped away with a victory against Texas Tech. I anticipate another such battle against Arkansas and another thrilling ending in the Blue Devils’ favor.

Richie: Duke 82-79

Oh boy this has been a fun month. I’m just excited to watch to be completely honest. Arkansas has an edge to it, and JD Notae is the Energizer Bunny out there. At the helm, too, is the ever fiery Eric Musselman, who, beyond schematics, has injected his team with unparalleled drive. Meanwhile, Duke hasn’t played better all season than it has in the past two games. Banchero, Roach and Williams are all blazing the trail for Duke with no thoughts of looking back, and the Blue Devils seemingly have a bottomless well of will to win. This has the potential to be a phenomenal game of basketball, and while I think Duke pulls it out in the end with that clutch factor that’s emerged this tournament, the game will not be decided until the final buzzer. 

Levitan: Duke 68-61

Even as a No. 4 seed, it should be clear that these Razorbacks have immense upset potential. Yes, they beat top-ranked Gonzaga, but they also beat Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee to get back to their second Elite Eight in as many years. Like Texas Tech, Arkansas is experienced and well-coached, led by veterans and a former NBA head coach in Eric Musselman. Sophomore Jaylin Williams, though, should be the matchup to watch: at 6-foot-10, he’ll provide a physical challenge to Banchero that the Red Raiders didn’t quite have. The Razorbacks, who Krzyzewski pointed out to be one of the country’s best defensive teams recently in Friday’s press conference, largely shut down Gonzaga’s perimeter to reach this point, but what happens inside between Banchero and Williams will go a long way towards deciding this one. Arkansas should prove a strong challenge, but with Banchero playing like this and the Blue Devils having gotten this far, Duke should punch its ticket to the Final Four with relative ease.

Hurewitz: Duke 77-65

Duke needed a late run to take down Michigan State and if not for a scorching hot second half against one of the country’s top defenses, I wouldn’t be writing this right now. However, Duke has shown that even if it’s behind, it’s never out, and I don’t see Arkansas as the team to deliver the knockout blow. Sure, the Razorbacks are an athletic team that can send some intriguing, smaller matchups on the likes of Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams, and can play stellar defense, but Duke will capitalize early for once and pace the game most of the way. Notae is a stud, but he is shooting just over 30% from the field during the tournament. If he tries to run the game, the Blue Devils might just be getting a blessing as they can try to run the break. Duke escaped a Gonzaga rematch—and while Arkansas is no joke, I don’t see a clear path for the Razorbacks to win this one. 

Max Rego profile
Max Rego

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 C. Piazza

Jake Piazza is a Trinity senior and was sports editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.

Sasha Richie profile
Sasha Richie | Sports Managing Editor

Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

Micah Hurewitz

Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity senior and was previously a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

Jonathan Levitan

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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