Friday Night NCAA College Basketball: St. John’s vs. #6 Duke vs. Davidson

The 6th ranked Duke Blue Devils (3-0) have gotten off to a bit of a shaky start despite earning head coach Mike Krzyzewski his NCAA record 903rd career victory this past week, but look primed to regain their strong form on home court against Davidson (2-0) in a fun match-up for online sports betting on Friday night.

There’s even more history on the line for the Duke Blue Devils tonight at home, as they face a scrappy Davidson Wildcats team that will attempt to shed a 23-game losing streak to Duke, with their last victory coming all the way back in 1981. Duke has been one of the toughest teams in all of College sports when playing on their home turf, and the Cameron Indoor Stadium will no doubt be rocking tonight as the Blue Devils look for the next record to break for Coach K., as tonight’s win would place him at 831 wins for Duke, the most ever by a coach at a single school. More importantly for arguably the greatest head coach of all-time however is the 88-game non-conference winning streak, and the 58-game winning streak at home against unranked opponents, which will be on the line when Davidson’s surprisingly talent-packed lineup hits the court tonight. Though it’s not really a question of who has the better team in this match-up, as Duke’s pedigree is tough to outmatch by any opponent, it will be a question of whether Duke can start playing better as a unit, and contain a Wildcats team that simply has nothing to lose on the road this evening.

Starting with a look at the visiting Wildcats, Davidson does look impressive when judging by pure stats alone. Coming off a solid 74-61 home win against Richmond, Davidson has a host of scorers that can provide points at any given time, ranging from 6’7″ sophomore forward De’Mon Brooks (averaging 19.0 points and 8.5 boards through two games) to stand-out junior guard J.P. Kuhlman, who has been a rock of the team for the past three years (12.0 points/game), however they seek out the one key component to a season that has eluded them of late; knocking off a ranked opponent. Despite their depth, which features 7 players contributing 8 or more points per game, and their good height around the floor, it’s been the inability of Davidson to overcome the best in the country that keeps them on the fringe of being a really competitive squad, losing their last 8 games to ranked teams dating back to 2008’s NCAA Tournament. That said however, there’s no doubt that a solid Davidson team that meshes well together will be in for a scrap against one of the premier teams on the road, so while most bookmakers have this at a 17-18 point spread in favor of Duke, we could see a contest inside that margin if Davidson can produce points and continue their solid defensive play (allowing 62.5 points/game so far). One of the big question marks for the Wildcats though will be whether they can find efficient shooting (45.3%, 140th in the nation), and contend with the deep ranks of the Blue Devils on their own court.

The Blue Devils really haven’t had that impressive win that backs up their #6 in the nation ranking, but that could change this evening if Duke can pull out a good shooting performance at home tonight, and especially take advantage of some mismatches in the paint with the 6’10” Plumlee twins Mason and Miles holding down the fort. Though the Blue Devils haven’t been particularly good at pulling down boards this year (ranking 185th in the nation at just 36.5/game), between the twins Plumlee and Ryan Kelly (averaging 14.3 points and 4.3 rebounds/game), they’ve got the height and length advantage in this match-up, but have been taken advantage of in the quickness department by smaller, more athletic opposing forwards. Take note that a much smaller and scrappier Michigan State team had Duke on the ropes for most of Tuesday’s match-up, and ended up outrebounding the Blue Devils 31-28, and you start to see comparisons to the Davidson team coming onto the court tonight. Though there are obvious pedigree differences between Michigan State and Davidson, the Wildcats veteran head coach Bob McKillop should have his team prepped well to find the advantages they can exploit against a Duke team that has yet to come into their own this season.

Betting Lines for #6 Duke vs. Davidson at

It would be a huge surprise to see anything less than Duke favored by double digits in this game…and whaddya know? They are. However, with the way Duke has struggled to fend off opponents in two of their first three games this season (beating Belmont by only 1 and MSU by 5), the biggest question mark lies with the 17.5 points on the spread in favor of Duke (-110 odds) which typically would be low for a non-conference unranked team coming into Cameron Indoor, but seems a bit high with a scrappy, talented Davidson team entering tonight’s game with little to lose. Also a good possible wager for tonight’s match-up is the over/under total points, listed at 149 (-110 odds as well), which could be tough to reach especially if Davidson’s mediocre shooting percentage carries over into this match-up. Duke certainly hasn’t shown their high-scoring ability ranking 44th in points at 82.3/game, and Davidson’s scoring stats have been padded by a blowout win over Guilford at home. In this match-up, a slow, methodical start to the game could be disastrous for the over pickers on total points, which could be a high possibility as Davidson will seek to slow down the Duke offense and try to control the possession game as much as they can. What could however end up being a decent bet for tonight’s game is the first half points, which stand at 70 points (-110 either way) and could be tough to match as Davidson puts it’s best defensive foot forward in the first half. But, if Duke explodes with some offense and can pick up the pace in the second half, we might very well see the over total points get busted in a Duke rout and return to elite-level form.

Our Pick to Win:

Duke clearly outclasses Davidson in terms of overall talent level and coaching ability, and despite their slow start to the 2011-12 season, the Blue Devils should be ready to rock at home court behind the backing of the Cameron Crazies. That said, I expect the Davidson Wildcats to put their best foot forward in the biggest game on this year’s schedule (they only face two other ranked opponents in #20 Vanderbilt and #11 Kansas this season), and put up a great fight for most of the game. Duke will get the win at home to keep their winning streaks intact and put up another milestone for Coach K, but I’ll side with Davidson to just beat out the spread tonight as the Blue Devils win 75-60 at home.

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