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The Gold Sheet

The Gold Sheet

(645) Duke at (646) Houston

(645) Duke at (646) Houston
March 29, 2024 9PM EDT
Play Rating:
5% – Houston -4.0 (-110)

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We were skeptical of Duke's ability to make a deep run in this tournament, and we're not going to let a 38-point win over James Madison change our opinion. Were the Blue Devils impressive in their wins over Vermont and JMU? Yes, they were. But Houston presents a nightmare matchup for the squad from Durham. The Cougars' defense is No. 2 in the country in defensive efficiency, No. 2 in effective field goal defense, No. 3 in turnover rate, No. 3 in two-point defense and No. 10 in three-point defense. The area that we want to focus on is turnovers. Houston's opponents are turning the ball over on 24.4-percent of their possessions. Take a look at the margin in which Houston is winning the turnover battle on a nightly basis:
Houston 10 - UCF 18
Houston 10 - Kansas 18
Houston 13 - TCU 15
Houston 8 - Texas Tech 19
Houston 8 - Longwood 18

The only team that has won the turnover battle against Houston in recent memory is Iowa State in the Big XII Championship Game. Why are those numbers important? Because Duke may have some injury concerns among its ball-handlers. Senior guard Jeremy Roach dislocated his pinkie in Sunday's win over James Madison. He finished the contest with his hand wrapped in tape and was seen in discomfort several times through out the contest and needed to get x-rays after the game. Reserve guard Jalen Blakes suffered a scary fall in the second half as he was driving to the hoop. Blakes landed on his back and was unable to return to the game. Jared McCain is a freshman that has 3+ turnovers in four of Duke's last 11 games.

The ACC was a notable step behind the Big XII, Big East, Big Ten and SEC this season. According to KenPom's metrics, the median team from the ACC was four points worse than the median team from the Big XII this season. Houston played a top-25 schedule this season. Duke's schedule was No. 69 because of how weak the rest of the ACC was.

Outside of Duke, there were five teams in the ACC ranked in the top-50 in defensive efficiency: North Carolina beat Duke twice. Pitt beat Duke once. Clemson blew a last-minute lead and lost by one at Duke. Notre Dame held Duke to 67 points (lowest Duke output in ACC play) and 71 points (third-lowest Duke output in ACC play).

If the best defensive teams in the ACC can all thwart Duke, then we expect the best defensive team in the country can do the same. This is a 5% top selection for us at -5.5 and below.

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