The Duke Blue Devils and Gonzaga Bulldogs were supposed to be the most vulnerable top seeds in the 2015 NCAA tournament and the South Region was predicted by many to be the messiest. However, on Sunday evening, it will be the top two seeds who compete for a place in this season’s Final Four. This should make for a fascinating matchup.Duke didn’t blow past the Utah Utes in their Sweet 16 matchup, but neither did they ever look seriously like being the victim of what would have been a serious upset. It was a much quieter game for Jahili Okafor, he scored just six points after three straight games with 20+.
Over the course of the season, it has become apparent that there is a little more to this Duke team than just Okafor. Quinn Cook is an important senior presence on the back-court, and freshmen guards Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones have both played strong basketball in the tournament so far.
Mike Krzyzewski’s team have played good defense so far in the tournament, but neither Utah nor San Diego State were exactly offensive powerhouses. The Blue Devils defense was identified as the weakness that could cost this team and this game against the Bulldogs (even if they win) could be a good indication of the truth in that.
Gonzaga has had more than their fair share of tournament dreams dashed. This is their first Elite Eight appearance since 1999. They’ve got an opportunity to put those to bed with a Final Four appearance next weekend, but Sunday’s game will be their first against a team that received much pre-tournament attention. Iowa were widely predicted to get upset by Davidson in the first round, and UCLA were possibly the biggest surprise of the Sweet 16 lineup. That doesn’t discount what this team has achieved, or how they’ve gone about it, but they’ll probably need to step up their compete level in this game.
Kevin Pangos and Kyle Wiltjer are the team’s experienced guards and trigger the offense, but arguably it has been seven-footer Prezemek Karnowski who has garnered most attention in the tournament so far. He dominated against a Bruins team that had played well on the front line scoring 18 points and picking up nine rebounds. Krzyzewski will need a plan to stop the big man.
Betting Preview: Duke (-2.5) vs. Gonzaga
Karnowski is perhaps the factor that is making a difference to this spread, but expect Duke to double him on the inside and to trust that they can outscore the Bulldogs guards. Okafor should have just too much offensively for this Gonzaga front-court. The Bulldogs are the team that is going to get a tougher test and they’ll also have to account for the multiple guard looks that the Blue Devils can throw out there.
The Pick: Duke(-2.5) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 36-30