Duke Blue Devils vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Pick
Duke Blue Devils (15-2 SU, 10-7 ATS) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (12-6 SU, 13-4-1 ATS)
When: Tuesday, January 22, 2019 – 9 PM ET
Where: Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: DUKE -12.5/PITT +12.5
Total: O/U 155
Last Time Out: Duke edged Virginia 72-70; Pittsburgh lost 74-63 to Syracuse.
Scouting the Blue Devils:
The rumors of Duke’s demise were greatly exaggerated. Turns out that the Blue Devils can win without Tre Jones, and they can do it against a talented squad like Virginia. The Blue Devils’ freshman triumvirate is just that good, and defenses have yet to find a solution to them through 17 contests. However, one potential flaw emerged in Duke’s performance against the Cavaliers: at the moment, the Blue Devils don’t have much beyond their big three. R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson combined for 57 of Duke’s 72 points against Virginia, which isn’t going to work on a consistent basis.
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Scouting the Panthers:
This is not the same Pittsburgh team that spent last year taking beating after beating from the rest of the ACC. This Panthers team is playing quality basketball and has again turned the Petersen Events Center into a feared building for visitors. The Panthers have one bad loss to a subpar Niagara squad, but in ACC play, they’re 2-1 at home with wins over Louisville and Florida State. Duke’s freshmen might get all the headlines, but Pittsburgh’s got a pretty excellent freshman of its own in Xavier Johnson, who averages 17 points a game and hasn’t been held to single digits once in his collegiate career.
Jeff Capel. The Pittsburgh coach knows the Blue Devils better than anyone outside of the program, having been involved in the recruitment of many of these players. When a coach goes up against his former school, that can work in one of two ways. In the case of former Mike Krzyzewski assistants, it usually works out the wrong way for the ex-assistant, as Krzyzewski rarely loses to his former proteges. But that’s also because many of Duke’s ex-assistants have flamed out in their first collegiate jobs. However, Capel, like Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, who has managed to find success against former boss Krzyzewski, is one of the few exceptions and could use his knowledge of the Blue Devils to keep this game closer than people think.
Duke will Cover if:
The Blue Devils have enough gas left in the tank for the Panthers. This is a classic trap game for the Blue Devils. They’ve only had 72 hours to come down from the high of beating Virginia, and two of their five started played all 40 minutes against Virginia. Given Duke’s style of running the floor as often as it can, fatigue could become a real factor for Duke in this contest. The Blue Devils have to pull themselves together and push past their tired legs in order to get this ACC victory over a squad that is better than people think.
Pittsburgh will Cover if:
The Panthers can get themselves to the free throw line. This strategy could have worked for Virginia, but the Cavaliers didn’t get the right guys in foul trouble and didn’t convert their free throws when they did get to the line. Pittsburgh shoots 72 percent as a team from the stripe, but the real key to this strategy is getting rid of Barrett or Williamson. Duke has become dependent on those two players to a remarkable extent, and the Blue Devils played just seven players against Virginia. If Pittsburgh can get one of them in foul trouble, Duke will have to adjust on the fly and could be in trouble.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
Duke’s the better team here and should get the win, but this is exactly the kind of game where a team like Duke struggles and needs to pull out a late shot to steal a victory. Pittsburgh is playing at home, where it’s at its best, and Duke is coming off an emotional high following a win over Virginia and its first game without Tre Jones.
Plus, Jeff Capel knows the Blue Devils very well and has likely been preparing for this game for a while. Odds are that he’s got his team focused on exactly how they have to play to have a chance, and the difference between Capel and Kevin Stallings’ Pittsburgh teams shows that his players listen to him. There’s a chance that Pittsburgh could pull off a huge shocker against Duke, given that the conditions are perfect for this to be a classic trap game, but I’m not willing to go that far on this game. However, I will gladly take my free points with the Panthers in a game that Duke could absolutely lose if it isn’t careful.