Basketball Odds & Picks -- Freshman stars have to step up for Duke

  • In Charles Jay
  • Fri, Mar 29th, 2024 7:34:12 am
  • By Charles Jay - Exclusive to OSGA

The Houston Cougars will try to smother Duke's youngsters with pressure when these teams meet in the Sweet Sixteen at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Since he took over for Coach K, Jon Scheyer has compiled a 53-17 record as coach of the Duke Blue Devils. The school hasn't necessarily gotten the cream of the crop among high school talent, and of course, the NIL situation is an ongoing factor.

But Scheyer still has the ability to bring some top-shelf players to Durham. And a couple of them could play key roles as the Blue Devils square off with the Houston Cougars in the Sweet Sixteen.

The game tips off at 9:39 PM ET at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, and will be televised by CBS.

In the basketball odds at BetOnline on this crucial NCAA Tournament game, the Cougars are favored:

Houston Cougars -4 (-113)
Duke Blue Devils +4 (-107)

Over 134.5 points -110
Under 134.5 points -110

And if you want to wager on more stuff, try Prop Builder, which lets you explore all the angles, for both teams and players!

Duke came into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team, having lost to NC State in the ACC tourney. After getting by Vermont without too much trouble in the first round of the Big Dance, they absolutely buried a James Madison team that had buried Wisconsin before that. There was no mercy in the 93-55 final.

Jared McCain sank EIGHT triples on his way to 30 points; Tyrese Proctor added 18, with senior Jeremy Roach tallying 15.

Everyone is aware of what seven-foot sophomore Kyle Filipowski brings to the table. He had 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting against JMU, and for the season he averaged 16.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists. At the analytics site KenPom, he is #4 in its Player of the Year rankings. He is not necessarly a big-time shot blocker, but he did have, for instance, four blocks in a 72-71 victory over Clemson on January 27.

What might be more critical to what Duke is going to be able to do from this point on is the play they get from their freshmen.

Caleb Foster, a 6-4 guard, was a top-five recruit out of Sherman Oaks, CA. He averaged 7.7 ppg and shot better than 40% from beyond the three-point circle. But he suffered a stress fracture in his right ankle, and even though he tried to practice, Scheyer declared that he would not participate in the NCAA Tournament.

McCain, however, is another freshman who is turning into a star. He has shot 41.5% from the arc, and that is something that is going to help against the tight Houston defense. By the way, the James Madison game did not represent his first 30-point effort. He had 35 against Florida State on February 17.

Sean Stewart is a guy you may be hearing from. Stewart came to Duke from Monteverde Academy in Florida, which is becoming a powerhouse and is now the home of Cooper Flagg, who has committed to the Blue Devils.

Stewart, at 6-9 and 227 pounds, is both powerful and athletic, and has been gradually earning minutes. He has great "hops" and his offensive rebounding percentage is best on the team. He can be a key player in getting second-shot opportunities for Duke and mitigating the effect of a Houston squad that is ferocious on the offensive boards.

Houston is second in the nation in Defensive Efficiency and also second best in forcing turnovers. But they don't shoot particularly well, and they were extended to the limit in a 100-95 overtime win over Texas A&M last time out.

Emanuel Sharp, Jamal Shead, LJ Cryer & Co. will put the pressure on, but Duke shoots well enough as a team, and has enough effective size that it can keep this very dramatic well into the latter stages. So we're taking the points.

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