A busy Black Friday in the sports world concludes with a college basketball showdown between the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils and the No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs. The game will be played at 10:30 PM Eastern at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas as part of the Continental Tire Challenge. The Bulldogs are currently listed as 7.5-point favorites with the over/under listed at 154.5 points.
The top-ranked Bulldogs are fresh off a 20-point thrashing of No. 2 UCLA earlier this week. Gonzaga also has a win over Texas on its way to starting the season 6-0. Naturally, the rest of Gonzaga’s games have been blowouts over lesser teams.
Duke’s season has followed a similar path after the Blue Devils survived a close game with Kentucky in the season opener. Since that game, the Blue Devils have cruised in five double-digit wins with all but one of the games being decided by at least 20 points. However, Duke will be tested by facing Gonzaga and Ohio State in less than a week.
The New Freshmen
Another year brings another batch of highly-ranked freshmen to the Blue Devils, most notably forward Paolo Banchero. Over the first six games of his career, Banchero leads Duke with 17.8 points and eight rebounds per game. Fellow freshman Trevor Keels has also made his presence felt at both sides of the floor, scoring 13.3 points per game while also averaging 2.3 steals per game.
However, some of Duke’s older players have also taken a bigger role this season. Wendell Moore is creating a great frontcourt tandem with Banchero, averaging 17.5 points per game while also leading the Blue Devils with 5.7 assists per game. Sophomore center Mark Williams has also made some strides early in the year while guard Jeremy Roach is a key X-factor for the Blue Devils.
The Go-To Tandem
Based on the first handful of games, the Bulldogs are likely to be led this year by the frontcourt tandem of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren. Timme is a familiar name who is averaging 18.7 points per game and is a reliable scoring presence in the paint. Meanwhile, the freshman Holmgren is a skilled seven-footer who can score around the basket but can also step back and knock down jump shots.
Sophomore Julian Strawther is also a key player to watch, as he’s Gonzaga’s second-leading scorer early in the season after scoring just 3.4 points per game last season. Andrew Nembhard has also done a nice job of stepping in as the team’s point guard, averaging five assists per game and keeping the ball spread to all of Gonzaga’s scoring threats. In fact, the Bulldogs have six players who average better than eight points per game, which is why they are averaging 91.5 points per game.
Slugfest in Sin City
Despite the Bulldogs blowing out UCLA earlier this week, this game is more likely to be a close and competitive game. The Blue Devils have the size to match Gonzaga in the paint on both ends of the floor. Bet on Duke to at least beat the 7.5-point spread in this game and give Gonzaga a serious challenge.
Betting Pick: Duke Blue Devils +7.5.
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