Duke vs. Wake Forest Basketball Pick
Duke Blue Devils (12-1 SU, 9-4 ATS) vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-6 SU, 6-7 ATS)
When: Tuesday, January 8, 2019 – 7 PM ET
Where: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem, N.C.
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: DUKE -21/WAKE +21
Total: O/U 158
Last Time Out: Duke handled Clemson 87-68; Wake Forest fell 92-79 at Georgia Tech.
Scouting the Blue Devils:
Duke hasn’t missed a beat since losing to Gonzaga in Maui, and has since proven that it can win with either its offense or its defense. The Blue Devils had to win a defensive battle against Texas Tech, which might be the best defensive squad in the nation, but otherwise, they haven’t been held under 80 points by anyone but Auburn. That includes their most recent victim, Clemson, which hung tough for a half before fading in the second half and ending up with a 19-point loss. Duke has looked every bit of the most talented team in the nation since November, and opposing defenses have found no answer for either R.J. Barrett or Zion Williamson.
Scouting the Demon Deacons:
Years ago, when Wake Forest was the program dominating the ACC, a guard named Childress was the reason. Randolph Childress now sits on the Demon Deacons’ bench as an assistant coach, and his son Brandon has blossomed into the Deacons’ best player, scoring in double figures in every game Wake Forest has played this year. The problem is that other than Jaylen Hoard and Chaundee Brown, he usually doesn’t get a lot of help, which has kept the Deacons from making much progress this season. Wake Forest doesn’t make up for its lack of balance by playing great defense either, as the Deacons allow 73 points a game.
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Duke on the road. How will the Blue Devils handle their first true road game of the season? Mike Krzyzewski usually likes to give his squad at least one test in a hostile arena before opening up ACC play, but as neutral-court games between big-name teams has become the norm in college basketball, he has shied away from doing so. Instead, the Blue Devils loaded their schedule with name opponents such as Kentucky, Auburn, Gonzaga and Texas Tech, playing all of them on a neutral floor.
That might simulate the NCAA tournament better than a true road game, but in practice, the strategy has backfired on Duke when it gets into ACC play. During this decade, Duke has made its first ACC road game its first true road game of the season five times — and the Blue Devils have lost four of those games straight up.
Duke will Cover if:
The Blue Devils are ready for the challenge of playing away from home. Duke is the more talented team and the Blue Devils have won eight in a row against Wake Forest for a reason. As long as the Blue Devils play the way they have for most of the season, they shouldn’t have much trouble against this opponent. But the first road experience is sometimes a difficult one for freshmen, even freshmen as talented as Duke’s fantastic trio. The Blue Devil freshmen have met every challenge thrown at them so far this year, but this will be a new experience that they’ll have to be ready for from the beginning.
Wake Forest will Cover if:
The Deacons can slow the game down and get the crowd behind them. Wake Forest’s crowd can be one of the most intimidating in college basketball when it gets a change to get loud and into the game, but the Deacons haven’t given their fans a lot of reasons to cheer over the past few years. Wake Forest’s one chance against this Duke team is to throw the Blue Devils off of their game early and hope that the mental challenge of winning on the road becomes a serious obstacle for the Duke freshmen.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
Despite the fact that Duke has been historically vulnerable in its first true road test, I’ve got to take the Blue Devils here. These days, few people remember that this was not only once a competitive Tobacco Road rivalry, but that Wake Forest once owned this series, winning nine straight against Duke in the mid 1990s. Those days are long gone, and the Demon Deacons are 1-16 in their past 17 against the Blue Devils and have beaten Duke just six times in the past 22 years.
Even with the game being in Winston-Salem and a large point spread, there’s no way that I feel comfortable going against the Blue Devils and backing an opponent that has losses to Houston Baptist, Richmond and St. Joseph’s on its resume. Wake Forest has also played Tennessee, a team on the level of Duke, and lost by 19, which provides a pretty good idea as to how this game might go. I don’t love the points, but if the choice is taking a Duke team that’s shown no vulnerability in a month or a struggling Wake squad, I’m going with Duke to extend its streak over the Deacons to nine in strong fashion.
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