Is Duke a Good Bet?

No. 1-ranked Duke is unbeaten so far this season, regularly outscoring opponents by significant margins and generally playing like the best game in the country. However, are they a good bet?

Duke has so far accomplished their success with a deep starting lineup and rotation, featuring players like Ryan Kelly (13.5 points per game), Rasheed Sulaimon (11.9 points per game) and Quinn Cook (10.3 points per game) to complement their two best players, star big man Mason Plumlee and shooter Seth Curry.

“I think Ryan has the ability to score 20 points against anybody,” Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I do think that when you’re trying to take Mason and Seth out of the game, that it opens it up a little bit more for Ryan, and that’s why Rasheed scoring and Quinn scoring will be big and have been big so far, but will be bigger as we go forward because people will try to take different things away from us.”

Duke basketball is never a great bet in terms of a straight up point spread proposition; their lines are too heavily skewed for a number of factors. First of all, Duke is historically very good at basketball, and thus historically drives the odds higher and higher that they’ll win. When something is expected to happen, you can bet Vegas won’t give you any slack. Secondly, they’re what gambling sharps (experts at betting) like to call a “public team.” Public teams are those that your average Joe Schmoe on the street knows about, kind of likes, and loves to gamble on. For instance, Duke traditionally draws a ton of betting action in Vegas when March Madness rolls around. Everybody knows an annoying Duke fan; they’re the people that love betting on them. However, there are a few smart bets with Duke, and most of them involve team and individual scoring performances. The Blue Devils have scored a ton of points this season, namely because of their outside shooting.

“I think you take the shots that are there, and as long as they’re good shots, we have confidence,” Krzyzewski said. “We’ll always shoot the 3 here, but if we can stay established with Mason inside and develop a little bit more of a driving game. . We’ll shoot them. We’re a good shooting team.”

Duke is 13th in the country in scoring per game, averaging 80.1 points per game. They’re also 21st in the country in field goal percentage, which means they aren’t just taking garbage shots; their offense is actually quite efficient, given how high scoring it is. Of course, the percentage has a lot to do with big man Mason Plumlee making many high-percentage shots like layups and dunks, though it’s still indicative of the team’s overall offensive performance. Several games ago in a 90-77 win against the lowly Santa Clara Broncos, star senior Seth Curry scored 31 points on 12 of 18 shooting. It was an absolute offensive clinic, and a great display of what makes Duke’s offense hum this year.

“Our team did a great job of executing in the halfcourt,” Curry said after the game. “Our big guys set great screens, and the few times we got in transition, Quinn kept his head up and found me for some open shots. I was able to score from behind the line and attacking the rim, so I was able to mix it up a little bit.”

That’s why betting the “Over” in Duke games has become such a smart bet. They’ve proven time and again that they can score quickly and effectively. They’re averaging 80 points a game, and opponents frequently give them their best game of the year. In other words, the Blue Devils find themselves in a lot of high scoring games, which makes them a smart bet for the “Over” if not the point spread.

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