Arkansas vs Duke: College Basketball Prediction (3/26/22)
The Arkansas Razorbacks will face off against the Duke Blue Devils at the Chase Center in San Francisco, California tonight. This will be an Elite Eight matchup with the Final Four on the line. Arkansas’ caught fire to end the season, winning 18 of their last 21 games, including a 74-68 win against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Sweet 16. Duke’s in a similar situation, winning 17 of their last 20 games. They’re coming off of a 78-73 win against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Although both teams have found tremendous success in the NCAA Tournament, neither of these teams was able to win their conference tournament this season. In this article, I’ll outline my favorite bet for the Arkansas vs Duke game.
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Both of these teams have found success against the spread (ATS) this season. Arkansas enters this game with a 21-15 ATS record, covering in 58.3% of their games. They’re only covering by an average of 0.4 points per game, though. Surprisingly, the Razorbacks have only covered in one of their last four games. With that being said, they’ve also covered in 15 of their last 21 games if we expand the view a bit.
Duke’s also found a bit of success, bringing a 19-16-2 ATS record into this game. They’re covering by an average of only 0.1 points per game this season. A key here is that the Blue Devils have been struggling to cover in recent games, as they own a 2-5 ATS record over their last 7 games.
This game is oddly simple based on what Arkansas will need to do to win. If they can get to the free throw line, they’ll have a distinct advantage. If they can’t, the advantage goes to Duke. The reason for this is that the Razorbacks are one of the best teams in the NCAA at drawing fouls. They also rank 48th in the country in free throw percentage (75.7%) this season. They have the eighth-highest point distribution from the line, according to KenPom. The biggest problem for them is that Duke fouls at the second-lowest rate in the NCAA.
With that being said, Arkansas drew nearly 20 fouls against Gonzaga. Similar to Duke, the Zags haven't struggled with fouls throughout the season. The Razorbacks want to attack the basket, which allows them to draw fouls, and Duke allows their opponents to attack the rim. This will result in their open layup opportunities or free throws for Arkansas’ offense.
On the other side, Duke relies heavily on two-pointers. They score over 50% of their points inside the arc, and they’re shooting a ridiculous 56.2% on two-pointers. Arkansas features a top-50 defense in that area, though, and they don’t allow opponents to score easily at the rim.
The final key to this game will be offensive rebounds. Both teams have found success on the offensive glass throughout the season with Duke being slightly better. The difference between these teams is that Arkansas doesn’t allow offensive rebounds. Duke’s struggled, allowing them throughout the season, and the Razorbacks should put the pressure on them by attacking the offensive glass throughout this game.
I’ve held strong that Duke’s the most overrated two-seed in the NCAA Tournament. I still firmly believe that, even after they beat Texas Tech. The key here is that in each of their last two games, Duke’s had incredible stretches to end the game. They missed only 3 shots in the final 10 minutes of the Michigan State game, including none in the final 6 minutes. The Blue Devils also missed only one shot in the final 10 minutes of the Texas Tech game. Although these are two incredible stretches to come away with wins, it’s fully unsustainable. It doesn’t matter who the player is, this type of production in the final minutes of games can’t continue.
Truthfully, I want to bet Arkansas to win outright. I think the moneyline is viable in this game. I’m taking the points in a game that should come down to the wire, though.
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