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Baylor vs Duke Picks – Athleticism or Experience?

Posted by Washington Tucker on 3/27/2010 1:35:16 PM

Online betting analysts have a fundamental choice to make this Sunday in Houston. Should they trust the overwhelming athleticism and noticeable length of the young, exuberant and very hungry Baylor Bears, or should they believe in the NCAA Tournament experience and pedigree of coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Duke Blue Devils? It’s not an easy call. The South Regional final poses some complex problems that aren’t easily answered.

  • What: NCAA Basketball Betting
  • When: Sunday, March 28th – 5:05 PM ET
  • Where: Reliant Stadium – Houston, TX
  • Key Stat: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is 10-1 in regional finals, second only to John Wooden among coaches who have coached in at least seven regional final games.
  • The Baylor-Duke Storyline

    If sportsbook odds were decided by current form, the third-seeded Baylor Bears would be the favorite in Sunday afternoon’s game against Duke. Baylor dominated Saint Mary’s in Friday night’s first South Regional semifinal. The Bears carved out a 29-11 bulge at the 6:43 mark of the first half and eventually ran up a 46-17 lead at halftime. Basically, the wonderboys from Waco, Tex., played 15 minutes of somewhat competitive basketball and then shifted into cruise control, winning by a 72-49 margin in a game that felt twice as lopsided.

    The third seed in the South Region felt no in-game pressure and enjoyed what amounted to an extended practice session on an elevated court inside a massive domed stadium. Coach Scott Drew’s team will be fresh and ready to play 40 full-tilt minutes against Duke. Moreover, the Bears have the size – in the form of big men Ekpe Udoh and Josh Lomers – that will enable them to contest rebounds against Blue Devil center Brian Zoubek and forward Kyle Singler.

    Duke, in contrast, is not playing overly inspiring basketball. The Blue Devils did stop Purdue in Friday’s second semifinal, but the 70-57 triumph – though quite satisfying – was hardly a work of art. Duke sharpshooter Jon Scheyer really wasn’t that sharp at all against the Boilermakers. The Blue Devils’ backcourt star hit only 5 of 18 field goal attempts, as Duke labored to score 24 first-half points and owned just 42 points at the 9:30 mark of the second half.

    Only in those final nine and a half minutes did Duke finally score with some degree of consistency. The Blue Devils – given a lifeline by a cold-shooting Purdue team – strung together five consecutive scores on an 11-3 run that gave them a 53-43 advantage with 6:33 left. Given Purdue’s offensive ineptitude (the Boilermakers hit only 37 percent of their shots), that 10-point lead felt like 20, and the Blue Devils reached the Elite Eight.

    Sports betting gurus have a choice, then: While Baylor is playing better basketball right now, Mike Krzyzewski is the best Elite Eight coach of his generation. No other active coach in basketball, except for Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, can come close to Coach K’s 10-1 record in regional finals. This is a man who knows how to drive a team to the finish line once it gets past the thorny Sweet 16 round that has stopped a number of Duke’s recent seasons.

    Offensive Matchups

    Baylor’s offense is more balanced, largely because these two guard-dominated teams have different levels of talent near the basket. Udoh is much more agile than Zoubek, giving the Bears the edge over the Blue Devils in the paint. Zoubek is very good at crashing the glass – that’s where he’ll need to play big – but Udoh is the superior scorer and playmaker.

    Betting Edge: Baylor

    Defensive Matchups

    Duke showed against Purdue that it can defend with anyone in the country. The Blue Devils are flinty and feisty in ways that previous Duke teams haven’t been. This is why the ACC champions are in the round of eight for the first time since 2004.

    Betting Edge: Duke

    Injuries

    There are no injuries for either team.

    Betting Edge: Even

    Betting Prediction: Baylor vs Duke Picks

    Since this game is in Houston, the Bears will have a partisan crowd on their side, and Duke has not fared well away from home this season. Then again, this is a neutral court inside a dome that reduces the noise of a crowd. Baylor is an attractive team right now, but people forget that the Bears have not yet played a single-digit seed to reach the Elite Eight. Baylor beat a 14 seed (Sam Houston) in the first round, an 11 seed (Old Dominion) in the second round, and a 10 seed (Saint Mary’s) in the regional semifinals. Against Duke, Baylor will be challenged, and because of that, the Blue Devils – with their experience – will pull out a one-score victory to return to the Final Four.

    Washington’s Pick: Duke

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