Stuckey: Why I Bet Duke-Virginia Tech Right Away

Stuckey: Why I Bet Duke-Virginia Tech Right Away article feature image
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Kelley L. Cox-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ahmed Hill and Ty Outlaw

#1 Duke vs. #4 Virginia Tech NCAA Tournament Betting Odds

  • Spread: Duke -8
  • Over/Under: 146.5
  • Date: Friday, March 29
  • Time: 9:39 p.m. ET
  • Location: Washington D.C.
  • TV: CBS

I kept hearing that Duke had an easy path to the Final Four after the bracket came out. While the Blue Devils are clearly the favorites to win their region, don’t sleep on Virginia Tech, which could cause major problems for Zion & Co. in this Sweet 16 showdown.

Don’t forget that the Hokies started the season with a 14-1 record that included three wins over 2019 NCAA Tournament teams. With point guard Justin Robinson back healthy, this is as scary of a No. 4 seed as you will see.

The Formula to Beat Duke

UCF showed the blueprint on how to beat Duke that I’ve been screaming about all year. The Knights went almost entirely zone on defense against Duke, daring the Blue Devils to launch from the perimeter. Duke hit 10 of 25 shots from deep, well above their normal rate, and still almost lost outright.

Well, VT won’t have to change much at all. The Hokies defense is designed to make opponents shoot 3s since they go under screens. In fact, 50.4% of their opponents’ shots were 3s this season, the second-highest rate in the entire country.

That sets up perfectly against a Duke team that shoots just 30.7% from beyond the arc, the worst clip of any team that reached the NCAA Tournament besides VCU.

Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1) pauses between free throws in the first half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Purcell Pavilion.
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Zion Williamson

This type of defense has long been a staple of Buzz Williams-coached squads — in six of the last seven years, his Marquette and Virginia Tech teams have ranked top 100 in opponent’s 3-point rate.

With point guard Robinson now back in the fold and with two games under his belt, this VT team is a top 10 team. And its defense is built to beat a team a like Duke.

The Hokies also won’t be intimidated by their conference foe. They beat Duke 77-72 in Blacksburg in February (albeit with the Blue Devils missing Zion Williamson, but VT didn’t have Robinson either).

This line is simply way too high at +7.5 or +8. I make it 4.5 or 5, so I took the Hokies on Sunday night.

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