Game: Cal-State Fullerton Titans @ Duke Blue Devils
Time: 7:10 p.m. ET
Odds: Titans +18.5, Blue Devils -18.5
Could another #2 seed fall victim to the upset? Last night, Kentucky lost in overtime to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s becoming just the 11th No. 2 seed to lose a first-round NCAA tournament game. This is the final March Madness run for Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is retiring after the tournament. Duke surely would love to make a deep run in this year’s tourney and send Coach K off with a national title. That all starts tonight with Cal-State Fullerton.
The Titans won the Big West Conference tournament beat Long Beach State in the final to earn the automatic NCAA bid. Cal-State Fullerton comes into tonight’s game having won four straight, but they face a mighty task tonight. The Titans are very good on defense. They allowed 66.2 points per game (86th in the nation), but playing in the Big West is not the same as playing in the ACC.
The Blue Devils are one of the nation’s top-scoring teams. Duke averages 80.2 points a game, which ranks No. 8 in the country. Slowing down the Blue Devils will be a challenge, but it has been done. Duke fell victim to Virginia Tech’s defense in the ACC title game and they lost their regular-season finale to North Carolina. The Blue Devils also got a scare in their ACC tournament opener. They trailed Syracuse 40-36 at halftime before winning 88-79. They did not cover the 15.5-point spread.
Over their last five games, the Blue Devils are just 1-4 ATS. In their last five first-round games in the NCAA tournament, Duke is a perfect 5-0 SU but 3-2 ATS. The Blue Devils have outscored their last three first-round opponents by an average of 22 points, which is a tad higher than tonight’s spread. For the season, Duke is 17-14-3 ATS.
The Titans rely on their defense and will likely attempt to slow Duke’s transition offense down. In the nine games prior to the Big West championship game, only once did Cal-State Fullerton give up more than 64 points and seven of the opponents scored 61 or fewer points. The offense scores just over 70 points a game, which means the Titans will have to slow things down in order to stay competitive.
Over those nine games before the Big West title game, the Under went 6-2-1 for the Titans. The Over has cashed in each of Duke’s last six games. Duke averaged over 83 points a game in those six scoring fewer than 80 points just once (ACC championship game). The Blue Devils have five players averaging in double figures and they are the seventh-best shooting team in the nation.
Duke also gave up an average of 79 points a game in the ACC tournament. That helped push those totals to the Over. For the season, Duke’s O/U record is 19-15 and all five neutral site games the Blue Devils played went Over the game total.