Duke vs. UCF Betting Guide: Will Knights Hang with Blue Devils in NCAA Tournament Second Round?

Duke vs. UCF Betting Guide: Will Knights Hang with Blue Devils in NCAA Tournament Second Round? article feature image
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USA Today Sports. Pictured: Duke forward Zion Williamson, UCF center Tacko Fall

#1 Duke vs. #9 UCF: NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: Duke -13
  • Over/Under: 143.5
  • Date: Sunday, March 24
  • Time: 5:15 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS
  • Location: Columbia, S.C.

>> All odds as of Saturday night. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and live win probabilities on your bets.


Duke (18-17 against the spread) has the seventh-youngest team in the nation. Some food for thought: Eight of the past 12 national champions own a top-190 ranking in KenPom‘s experience factor.

Will the Blue Devils be tested in the Round of 32 by the 21st-most experienced team in UCF (19-12-1 ATS)? Let’s breakdown the matchup’s biggest factors.

Excelling with Double-Digit Spreads

According to our Bet Labs data, Duke is 12-6 (66.7%) ATS when favored by at least 12 points this season. Its success stems from the Blue Devils’ elite defense (88.4 opponents’ Adjusted Defensive Efficiency), guided by the 6-foot-7 Zion Williamson’s prowess for sparking their transition offense with his elite on-ball defense.

But UCF’s 32nd-ranked AdjD (95.6 opponents’ points per 100 possessions) won’t be a cakewalk for Mike Krzyzewski. Don’t forget about Knights coach Johnny Dawkins getting a crack at his alma mater and former employer.

Hard-Shell Tacko

Led by 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall and his 11.5% block rate (14th-highest in Division I), UCF has yielded the 13th-lowest 2-point clip (44.4%) in the country. On the flip side, Duke has thrived off scoring inside the arc, generating the 21st-highest 2-point scoring rate (55.7%) in the country.

This Duke team doesn’t shoot from deep.

Even though much of that comes in transition, it’s also a product of tallying the 21st-lowest 3-point clip (30.5%) in the country, aiming to have R.J. Barrett attack off the dribble drive and Williamson operate from the post. But the Knights have the length to protect the rim — with Fall and the 6-foot-11 Collin Smith up front.

The 6-foot-6 Aubrey Dawkins also has the frame to bother Barrett (23.0 points per game), especially as he aims to probe through the lane.

In order for their defense to be effective, though, the Knights will need to execute in half-court sets to limit Duke’s fastbreak opportunities.

Blue Devils’ Struggling Interior Defense

Although Duke has thrived at keeping its opponents off the line, which is one of UCF’s strengths, Krzyzewski’s squad has allowed the 14th-highest 2-point scoring rate (55.1%) in the nation.

The Knights have run 46.1% of their action through Fall (11.0 ppg) and Smith (8.1 ppg), as well as using Dawkins (15.1 ppg) and B.J. Taylor (16.0 ppg) off the dribble. Williamson and Blue Devils point guard Tre Jones are always lurking around to turn the opposition over, but Taylor’s senior experience as their floor general should pay dividends against an aggressive defense.

UCF presents similar length to Duke, too, and it’ll be in position to take advantage of Williamson & Co.’s below-average defensive rebounding rate (29.3%). That’ll serve as another tool to stymie the Blue Devils from breaking away at the other end.

THE PICK: UCF +13, but I wouldn’t bet it past +12

Our Projected Odds: Duke vs. UCF

Get point spreads for this game and every possible tournament matchup with our bracket simulator built by Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, a former oddsmaker and FantasyPros’ most accurate in-season fantasy football ranker from 2015-2017.

  • Spread: Duke -15
  • Over/Under: 141
  • Score: Duke 78 | UCF 63
  • Win Probability: Duke 94.9% | UCF 5.1%

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game is from the individual writer and are based on his research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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