Timing is everything, as the old adage goes, and the Duke Blue Devils could be heading into Columbus at exactly the wrong time to face the Ohio State Buckeyes in a premier NCAA basketball betting tilt.
The Blue Devils and Buckeyes cap the first night of the 2011
ACC-Big Ten Challenge with a 9:30 (ET) tip Tuesday on ESPN. It's been primarily
a challenge for Big Ten schools with the ACC having won 10 of the previous 12
annual events, and it's hardly been a challenge at all for Duke who is 11-1 in
Ohio State enters Tuesday's matchup a
pedestrian 5-5 in the yearly contest, one of only two Big Ten teams that don't
have a losing record.
The Buckeyes are 5.5 point favorites after opening a tad
higher at some NCAA basketball betting shops. For those looking to play on the total, NCAA basketball odds makers have set it at 144.
The latest polls both have Ohio State No. 2, and a strong
showing against No. 4 Duke could push Matta's squad to the top of the rankings
pending on what happens Saturday when No. 1 Kentucky hosts previous No. 1 North
Carolina. This week could very well end
up being the difference of a 1-seed or 2-seed for all four schools just
It's never a good time to go in the road a face a team the
caliber that Thad Matta has assembled at Ohio State,
but the crowd should be ramped up with new football coach Urban Meyer no doubt
making an appearance.
Even without that
icing, Matta's men are among the leaders in several offensive categories,
including an 85.2 scoring mark (12th) and hitting 51.5% of their field goals
(ninth). It's also a very well-balanced squad inside and outside, and that
balance will be the key to a Buckeyes win or cover, or a Duke upset in either
Everyone knows about Jared Sullinger, OSU's behemoth
sophomore on the inside, and most should know about versatile senior William
Buford. Both players have reached
double-digits on the scoreboard in each of Ohio State's six games to date, with
Buford topping 20 points three times and Sullinger working on a string of four
consecutive double-double's, averaging 19.5 points plus over 12 boards in that
With Sullinger and Buford out front on this roster, however,
it's easy to forget about sophomores Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft. The 6-7 Thomas has stepped into a bigger role
this season and done well despite some growing pains. His biggest drawback to date is endurance,
wearing down a bit during a game as his workload increases.
Craft's endurance is not an issue. He is full throttle on the court, plays well
above his soph classification. His one
weakness is shooting from long range; Craft hit nearly 38% of his 3's last
season, which isn't bad, but deep shots aren't his forte and it will be
interesting how far off Duke might play him in any half-court sets.
The Duke Blue Devils also have a well-balanced team, and might be
stronger inside right now than recent Mike Krzyzewski-coached teams. Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, along with
brother Miles, give Duke plenty of height in the paint, with Kelly presenting a
huge matchup problem on defense for the Buckeyes. Sullinger can practically stand in place and
guard Mason Plumlee, but if he's on Kelly, the Blue Devils can draw OSU's big
man further away from the bucket.
Duke is still about the guard play, and loaded at the
position. Seth Curry leads the group
with freshman Austin Rivers flashing his potential. Andre Dawkins is the forgotten member of this
lineup, and would be a star on any other team.
Curry against Craft is going to be another good matchup to
watch. The mismatch for Duke on defense
should be Buford.
The Buckeyes and Blue Devils last met in this event nearly
nine years ago, Dec. 3, 2002 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke won that game easily with a 91-76 cover,
and since then the Blue Devils are 15-3 straight up against Big 10 teams
regardless when or where they meet. Ohio State
is 6-6 during the same time vs. ACC squads.
Taking a Chance: Duke has won its first seven games of the season,
going 3-4 ATS, against a much tougher slate than Ohio State
has played in its first six. The Blue Devils have beaten two other Big Ten
squads at neutral sites, Michigan State and Michigan.
I'm still going to lay the points on the Buckeyes. Ohio State takes it, 78-71.