After a slow start to the season, Duke turned it on over the last month to win nine straight games to secure an ACC title and a top-five seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Blue Devils’ reward?
Giant killer Oral Roberts, which has already made waves on this stage and is looking for its second surprise run in the tournament in three seasons.
Here’s how we’re betting Thursday’s contest, which tips off at 7:10 p.m. Eastern on CBS.
Duke vs. Oral Roberts pick
- Oral Roberts +6.5 (-115 BetMGM)
Duke vs. Oral Roberts prediction and analysis
Over the last few weeks, it feels like everyone has fallen in love with Duke amid the team’s nine-game win streak ahead of Thursday’s tournament opener.
It’s easy to see why: the Blue Devils rank second in T-Rank’s power rating since Feb. 14 with top-10 efficiency on both ends when adjusted for competition.
This team has still turned it over at a high rate (16.5%) with subpar rebounding rates over that stretch, but Duke is finally hitting shots from deep (54.9%) while keeping its opponents from doing the same (43.4%).
Let’s step back for a minute and consider what any of that actually means.
Yes, this team is talented, but it’s also ripped off this run against mostly lousy competition in the ACC, which is in the midst of a down swing and featured multiple teams that crashed and burned late in the year.
It’s also fair to wonder whether those shots will continue to fall for a Duke team that, on the season, ranks 196th in 3-point percentage (33.6%) with just one starter shooting better than 35% from deep.
That leaves this group mighty susceptible to an upset bid against a team with elite shooting and enough experience to weather the inevitable Blue Devil runs.
That sounds an awful lot like surging mid-major Oral Roberts, which boasts the nation’s longest winning streak (17 games) and is just two years removed from playing spoiler on this very stage – when it knocked off No. 2 Ohio State and No. 7 Florida en route to the Sweet 16.
And this team, in just about every way, is better than that one.
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Tournament hero Max Abmas is back, ranking seventh nationally in scoring (22.2 PPG) as the catalyst for the Golden Eagles’ uber-efficient offense, which ranks 22th in adjusted efficiency with top-10 marks in effective FG% (56.1%), turnover rate (13.2%), 2-point percentage (56.6%) and free-throw percentage (78.4%).
As if that wasn’t enough, this group generates 38.7% of its points from beyond the arc – the second-highest mark in this tournament and the most by any team that Duke has faced this season.
That’s a proven way to beat the Blue Devils, who rank first nationally in average height (79.3”) but are just 5-5 when opponents shoot better than 36% from deep.
Duke very well might impose its will in this game and prove the last month to be the rule and not the exception of its season.
Still, there’s enough reason to be skeptical of the team’s recent run and concerned about this matchup with Oral Roberts, which is infinitely more experienced and should be able to keep this one close to the very end.
Duke vs. Oral Roberts odds (via BetMGM)
- Duke -6.5 (-105), moneyline -275
- Oral Roberts +6.5 (-115), moneyline +210
- O/U 145.5 (-110)
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