- Duke escaped the second round with a one-point comeback victory
- The Blue Devils remain heavy favorites to win the East
- Which team is the best bet between Duke, Michigan State, LSU, and Va. Tech?
After escaping with a narrow 77-76 victory over No. 9 UCF in second-round action, the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils now look to the Sweet 16 at this year’s NCAA Tournament as reduced favorites to win the East Region, sporting -160 in the latest March Madness futures.
Odds to Win March Madness East Region
Top Four Seeds Advance to Sweet 16
Following an impressive march to the ACC Tournament title, the Blue Devils were riding high entering the tournament and sat as -200 chalk to win the East Region before round one.
The Blue Devils encountered little resistance while getting past No. 16 North Dakota State in first-round action, but came within a fortuitous roll of an early exit in Sunday’s victory over the Knights.
— Orlando Sentinel (@orlandosentinel) March 25, 2019
With the top four seeds in the East all advancing to the Sweet 16, the road to the Final Four looks as rocky as possible for Duke.
No. 2 Michigan State sits second to the Blue Devils in the East Region futures at +275 odds, well ahead of No. 4 Virginia Tech at +700, while No. 3 LSU continues to face tempered expectations as a +1000 longshot to reach the Final Four for the first time since 2006.
Duke Faces Tough Test Against Rival Hokies
The Blue Devils will have their hands full when they face conference rival Virginia Tech on Friday as 7-point favorites. The Hokies have had Duke’s number in recent meetings, taking three of four SU from the Blue Devils since January 2016, capped by a 77-72 win as 3.5-point underdogs on February 26.
Virginia Tech seized an early lead and never looked back in last month’s win, but were spared facing Zion Williamson in that contest, while the phenom recovered from an exploding shoe-related knee injury.
Williamson has shown no ill effects from last month’s injury, and emerged as a dominant force in Duke’s win over UCF.
Williamson has shown no ill effects from last month’s injury, and emerged as a dominant force in Duke’s win over UCF, draining 32 points and adding 11 rebounds while enduring smothering coverage by the Knights big man Tacko Fall.
We won't soon forget the highlights from the epic Tacko Fall vs. Zion Williamson battle https://t.co/IhUa8YWBoD
— SI College Hoops (@si_ncaabb) March 25, 2019
That extends the 18-year-old’s impressive performance since returning from injury at the ACC Tournament, with Williamson averaging 27.6 points per game and recording three double-doubles while leading the Blue Devils to victory in five straight win-or-go-home games.
Hokies Have Struggled Against Top-Ranked Opponents
The Hokies’ recent victory over Duke marks their only SU win this season in five clashes with an opponent ranked at No. 16 or higher in the AP Top 25. While Virginia Tech has shown grit and played stifling defense in their march to their first Sweet 16 berth since 1967, they have also enjoyed matchups with inferior opponents in No. 13 Saint Louis and No. 12 Liberty.
If the Blue Devils are to face a threat in their quest to return to the Final Four for just the second time since 2010, it is far more likely to come from the East Region’s other Sweet 16 matchup earlier on Friday night, when the Spartans battle the Tigers as 6-point chalk.
Spartans Enter Sweet 16 Under Pressure to Produce
Pegged as a +350 wager to reach the Final Four entering March Madness, MSU has been a model of consistency this season while marching to a 30-6 overall record.
The squad faced adversity following the loss of Joshua Langford to a season-ending injury. A three-game SU losing streak a few weeks later marks their only consecutive defeats this season.
March Madness – Does MSU have what it takes? https://t.co/wNt1bglIUK
— SB Nation College (@sbncollege) March 20, 2019
SU winners in 12 of 13 outings, the Spartans still have a lot to prove after failing to get out of the first weekend of March Madness in each of the past three years, and losing seven straight to Duke since 2005.
Scandal-Plagued Tigers Surpassing Expectations in March to Sweet 16
If it is possible for a three-seed to be considered a Cinderella, LSU might just be it.
The Tigers have seen their impressive climb to the top of the SEC conference standings overshadowed by controversy stemming from Will Wade’s alleged involvement in a recruiting scandal that led to the LSU head coach’s indefinite suspension.
— Coachseekr (@coachseekr) March 22, 2019
Pegged as a prime candidate to suffer an early upset in March Madness following their early exit from the SEC Tournament, the Tigers rose to the occasion against Ivy League champion Yale, bouncing the Bulldogs 79-74, before showing character in Saturday’s 69-67 win over No. 6 Maryland.
LSU is moving on to the second round https://t.co/LGGd98ioCh
— The Advocate (@theadvocatebr) March 21, 2019
Ranked No. 19 in the nation in points per game this season, LSU must find a way to penetrate a Spartan defense that has surrendered just 57.5 points per game over their past four.
But with zero pressure entering their first Sweet 16 contest since 2006, and odds of advancing to the Final Four diminished from +900 to +1000, the Tigers may represent the best value currently available in the East Region.
SBD’s Regional Analysis
Let's have fun and keep it civil.