Two Teams to Back in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament
Next to the Super Bowl, March Madness is one of the most bet sporting events in the United States.
The American Gaming Association projects 68 billion adults will wager $15.5 billion on the NCAA college basketball tournament, including 31 million who plan to place a traditional sports wager.
The first four games start on Tuesday and continue into Wednesday before the first-round matchups begin on Thursday and go throughout the weekend. Here are two bets in the opening round for you to consider.
Duke -6.5 (-105) over Oral Roberts at DraftKings
Given the lofty expectations of the program, it’s rare Duke doesn’t dominate the headlines this time of the year. Still, the Blue Devils once again might be one of the more dangerous teams in this tournament as a No. 5 seed.
Duke has won nine straight, including the ACC Championship against Virginia. The Blue Devils have done it primarily with their defense, limiting opponents to 63 points per game during that win streak, and have kept teams under their scoring average in 30 contests, going 26-4 in those games.
Injuries played a crucial part in the team’s early-season struggles as it looked to develop a cohesive unit. But the team’s highly-lauded freshmen have started to come through.
Kyle Filipowski was named the ACC Freshman of the Year and led all freshmen across the country in double-doubles (16) and rebounds (8.9) while making 24 of 36 shots in the ACC Tournament. Derrick Lively was the top recruit in last year’s class and has found his role as a shot-blocking rim-protecting prim who is a solid finisher around the rim on offense.
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Oral Roberts returns four players from its Sweet 16 run two years ago when the Golden Eagles pulled off upsets over No. 2 Ohio State and No. 7 Florida as a No. 15 seed. Max Abmas is one of those players and has continued to score at a high rate, averaging 22.2 points per game and ranks fourth nationally in 3-pointers made (117).
But this will be a large step up in competition for an Oral Roberts team that went 30-4 overall and 18-0 in the Summit League. The Golden Eagles lost both its Quad 1 games of the season in November, falling 78-70 to Saint Mary’s and getting blown out by Houston 83-45. Expect a Duke team playing its best ball of the season to prove too athletic and big for Oral Roberts.
Drake +2.5 over Miami at FanDuel
A narrative people like to back this season is experience. If you’re looking to back a senior-laden team that you want to trust in high-stress situations, then the Drake Bulldogs are worth a look.
Drake topped Bradley 87-61 in the Missouri Valley Conference final to secure an NCAA bid and boasts one of the most experienced teams in the country. The Bulldogs are among the few teams ranking top 30 in KenPom in both minutes continuity and experience.
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Minutes continuity measures how many players from last year's team are contributing. Drake starts four seniors, with the one non-senior being Tucker DeVries, who averages 19 points per game.
Senior 6-foot-10 center Darnell Brodie gives the team an inside presence and has been key to the Bulldogs ranking third in the country in defensive rebound percentage.
Brodie’s effectiveness may be even more prominent with Miami dealing with an ankle injury to its best post, 6-7 sophomore Norchad Omier, who was hurt in the opening minutes in Miami’s loss to Duke in the ACC tournament. If Omier can’t play or is limited, Drake could overwhelm the Hurricanes inside.
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