Duke Blue Devils vs. Iowa State Cyclones Preview and Pick

Duke Blue Devils (12-1 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. Iowa State Cyclones (10-3 SU, 7-3 ATS), 9:00 p.m. EST, Wednesday, January 6, 2009, United Center, Chicago, Ill. TV: ESPN2
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Duke -13/Iowa State +13
Over/Under: 145.5

With all of the attention being paid towards Kansas, Texas, Purdue, Kentucky and Syracuse, it may not be that obvious but the Duke Blue Devils are one of the best teams in college basketball and a legitimate Final Four threat. The Blue Devils have played just one road game this season and it’s their only loss, 73-69 at Wisconsin. Duke will travel west of North Carolina for the first time this season and will try to pick up its first true road win, as the Blue Devils play Iowa State at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday night.

Since Duke’s loss to Wisconsin on December 2, the Blue Devils have been quite impressive. After a win over St. John’s and a 45-point win over Gardner-Webb, they absolutely destroyed nationally ranked Gonzaga at Madison Square Garden, 76-41. After a couple more easy wins over Long Beach State and Penn (by 59 points), the Blue Devils opened up ACC play on Sunday with a 74-53 victory over Clemson.

Iowa State is having a streaky season. After starting the season great at 6-0, the Cyclones ran into a bit of a rough patch with three straight losses, two of which were by three points or less, to Northwestern, Northern Iowa and California. But since then, over the last month, the Cyclones have won four games in a row, all at home, over Iowa, Bradley, North Dakota and Houston. The win over Houston on Sunday came in double overtime.

Craig Brackins is Iowa State’s best player. The 6-foot-10 versatile power forward could have been an NBA lottery pick but chose to return to school for his junior year. He isn’t quite having the season he had last year when he averaged about 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. But he has been solid as of late, scoring at least 16 points in four of the last five games and grabbing at least eight rebounds in the last four games and in six of the last seven games. But Marquis Gilstrap has stepped up for the Cyclones this season and has been just as good as Brackins, averaging about 15 points and nine boards per game.

Duke is led by the terrific trio of Jon Scheyer (18.8 ppg, 6.4 apg), Nolan Smith (18.4 ppg) and Kyle Singler (15.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg). All three of them, along with Andre Dawkins, are terrific 3-point shooters. Smith is shooting an incredible 51.1 percent from 3-point range. Scheyer is doing a terrific job taking care of the ball with a nearly 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. And Kyle Singler is the team’s best all-around player with the ability to score down low or on the perimeter.

Both of these teams are shooting 49 percent from the field this season and holding their opponents to under 40 percent. Duke’s defense is two percentage points better at 37 percent. The Blue Devils are shooting 43 percent from 3-point land while holding opponents to 29 percent. Iowa State is also making 43 percent of its 3-pointers and its opponents are shooting 32 percent. Iowa State is out-rebounding its opponents by about five boards per game, while Duke has about a seven rebound advantage per game. And Duke has a four-turnover advantage per game (15.5-11.5) while Iowa State is forcing about one turnover per game more than it commits.

Duke is 4-1 ATS in its last five games and the total has gone under in three of its last four games. Iowa State has covered in its last two games and was just one point from covering in the previous game. Duke is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games at neutral sites. Iowa State is 1-4 ATS in its last five neutral site games.

Ryno’s Pick: Obviously, Duke is the much superior team based on what each team has accomplished. Duke has proven itself with quality wins over Charlotte, Arizona State, UConn, St. John’s, Gonzaga and Clemson, and only one loss. Iowa State’s best win was over Iowa, Bradley and Houston, and has three losses. The statistics for the season aren’t very different. Both teams shoot very well from 3-point range and from the field. Duke just does everything a little bit better than Iowa State. But the Blue Devils have done it against a much tougher schedule, as they have the No. 21 SOS and Iowa State has the No. 274 SOS. If this game were at Iowa State’s home arena, it may be possible for the Cyclones to hang around. But this game is at the United Center, and the Blue Devils will likely be playing in front of a lot of their own fans. Take Duke -13.