Tonight’s featured NCAA Basketball contest between the #6 Duke Blue Devils and the #14 Kansas Jayhawks will no doubt make for a fitting end to the EA Sports Maui Invitational, as both teams seek to add a Top-25 victory to their belts heading into the grind of conference play to come. While Duke seeks to claim its 5th straight Maui Invite title and a 15-0 record in the tournament over the past 5 years, Kansas hopes that the first meeting in nine years between these two elite squads will result in a changing of the guard for the tournament, so heavily dominated by the Duke Blue Devils. However, with the way both teams have picked up form and pace during this year’s season-opening tournament, it could be anyone’s title to claim this evening…something that always will add a ton of excitement for online sports betting at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed right here!
Duke steps into the contest after brushing aside many early-season skeptics, who critiqued the Blue Devils’ inability to blow out lesser competitors and control their games from start to finish. After struggling to get past Belmont in the first game of the season, as well as getting a scare from Michigan State (undoubtedly a good, well-coached team), Duke has started to hit stride with a victory over #15 Michigan last night, 82-75. Shooting 56.5 percent from the floor in that game, the Blue Devils are finally starting to show signs of a balanced offense, with freshman guard Austin Rivers coming into his own (son of Boston Celtics’ head coach Doc Rivers), who went for 20 points against Michigan and is now averaging 15.3 points on the season. Leading scorer Seth Curry (16.2 points/game) has also has been lights out in the last 4 games, and comes off an outstanding shooting night going 6-7 from the floor (%85.7) while providing 17 points. With depth and talent, there’s no question that Duke is hitting the scoring groove, but there is much room for improvement on the defensive side of the ball, with the Blue Devils allowing themselves to be outrebounded by smaller teams this year like Michigan State and Michigan, as well as struggling to contain opponents’ shooting percentage (Duke allowed Michigan to shoot 49.2 percent from the floor last night, their highest opponent shooting % of the season). For Duke to prevail in this tournament title tonight, they are going to have to show better authority on defense all around the court, and it will be especially crucial to have the twin brothers Miles and Mason Plumlee (6 and 9.7 boards/game respectively) crashing glass tonight, along with the 6’11” Ryan Kelly (14.2 points, 4.8 rebounds) improving his presence in the paint against a smaller, quicker Kansas Jayhawks lineup.
For head coach Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks, it’s an interesting match-up in the first battle between these two storied schools since 2003. With no players on either team having ever matched up against their opposition, it’ll be up to the Jayhawks to formulate a good plan of balanced attack against the Mike Krzyzewski-coached Blue Devils, and find ways to exploit their weaknesses in tonight’s game. The most difficult area for the Jayhawks to overcome will be simply the size disadvantage, as although they have the 7-foot Jeff Whithey (6.3 points, 5.5 rebounds/game), no one else stands above 6’9″ on the roster. That will make it all the more crucial for Kansas to utilize good form in the paint, blocking out on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. There’s no question Kansas has speed, and if they can win the rebounding margin against a Duke team that is tall in the middle but slow, the Jayhawks will get a leg up on the competition tonight. One very big area of concern however is where the points will come from tonight, as Kansas has shown an inability to put up big numbers against quality opponents already this year. If you take away the blow-out 100-54 win over Towson to start the season, the Jayhawks averaged only 68 points in the last 3 games against Kentucky, Georgetown and UCLA. That simply won’t stand up against a Duke team that is putting up 81 points/game, and is finding their shooting rhythm at the end of this year’s EA Sports Maui Invitational. While there’s no doubt Kansas has a chip on their shoulder heading into this match-up having lost six of eight meetings all-time with Duke, and will be well prepared for the game tonight, the Jayhawks leading scorers including F Tyshawn Taylor (15.8 points/game), F Thomas Robinson (16 points, 11.3 boards/game) and G Elijah Johnson (12 points/game) must get some help doling out the offense from Jeff Withey down low, and also Travis Releford and Connor Teahan on the perimeter.
Betting Lines for #6 Duke vs. #14 Kansas at Oddmaker.ag
On neutral ground for today’s game, the tournament-favorite Duke Blue Devils find themselves in a comfortable, familiar position looking for their 5th EA Sports Maui Invite title in a row. As such, Duke gets the nod on the money line at Oddsmaker.ag, with -210 odds to pick up the win and the trophy tonight. Kansas meanwhile certainly isn’t too much of an underdog in this match-up, getting +175 odds which could be a worthwhile wager for those backing the Jayhawks. Against the spread, it’s another tight set of betting lines with -5 points on Duke at -110 odds, and +5 points going to Kansas to cover (same -110 odds). The pace in this game will likely be pushed a bit faster, as both teams have been shooting increasingly better as the tournament goes on, giving a fair likelihood of a bust-out of the over/under total points at 146.5. Though Kansas has struggled a bit with putting up big numbers against quality competition, Duke’s lack of containment on defense, and their struggles to win the rebounding game could help push this game over as both sides likely are able to run their offenses and generate points without too much trouble.
Our Pick to Win:
After getting just crushed in last night’s pick between #21 Missouri and #20 California (thanks Cal for getting beat by 40 and making many of us pickers look like total noobs), I’m looking for a redemption win in tonight’s match-up, which should be much more balanced and a much closer game for sports fans to enjoy. While Duke has some hang-ups to deal with still, mainly on defense, they also have a quickly improving offensive attack, that may simply overshadow any shortcomings on the defensive side of the ball. Kansas is no doubt a quality team with a great head coach, but their lack of scoring depth may continue to be a problem in big match-ups like these. For Duke to win tonight they have to control the rebounding game, and must keep Kansas from shooting north of 50 percent. If they can do that, they can walk away with their 5th tournament title, and their 7th win in 9 meetings overall against Bill Self’s Jayhawks. As such, I’ll take Coach K’s Blue Devils to cover the points spread set at 5 at Oddsmaker.ag, in a 76-67 win tonight.