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DUKE (-2.5) @ OHIO STATE, TOTAL 147.5
There’s no doubt about it, this final Coach K Duke team is shaping up to be special. If you’ve only been reading the bold printed headlines, you’re getting a pretty fair representation of what’s happening for the Blue Devils. Ohio State was highly regarded to start the season but recent tumbles against Xavier and Florida snapped their 25-week streak of being ranked in the Top 25.
Duke is 7-0 heading into tonight’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge game in Columbia and is perched at #1 by default, but by some well-earned grit. They’ve bookended their season this far with a top-10 win over Kentucky and dethroning the preseason #1 Gonzaga and looked very good doing it. Paolo Banchero has proven to be a freshman worth his acclaim thus far and he’s surrounded by studs. There have been three ACC Freshman of the Week awards given out. Paolo has one two of them and the third, went to teammate A.J. Griffin. We can add those two studs to Wendell Moore Jr. who happens to be the only Power 5 player to average 17 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and shoot 50% from the field. Yes, Duke is legitimately loaded.
That’s not to say they can’t be beaten. Ohio State is anchored by E.J. Liddell who is 7th in the nation in scoring (22.5). He’s got a backcourt teammates that are young and very capable of making this Buckeyes team a second weekend-type crew. The problem is those teammates (Meechie Johnson and Malaki Branham) have been terribly inconsistent. That comes with youth. They are supremely talented as we cannot forget both were 4-star prospects coming to Ohio State. However if the Buckeyes want to beat Duke, those guys need to appear. Liddell leads the team in not only expunged but minutes played too.
Duke has always played well in this Challenge. They are 19-3 in it. They also are 6-2 on the road and have won three straight away from Cameron in the Challenge. Duke is deeper, more talented on the top line too. The Buckeyes have had half of their games decided by a shot in the last three seconds of the game and I don’t think they’ll have a chance to make it a fourth game tonight. The Buckeyes are 193rd in scoring defense and if there’s a team you gotta bring the ‘fense for, it’s the Blue Devils. Tonight I’ll take Duke -2.5.