The top-seeded Duke Blue Devils (31-4) got freshman phenom Kyrie Irving back in their 87-45 rout of #16 Hampton in the second round of the NCAA tournament and will now take on the eighth-seeded Michigan Wolverines (21-13) off an equally impressive 75-45 blowout win over #9 Tennessee. Neither team was really challenged after halftime, so it will be interesting to see how each responds against better competition when they meet on Sunday in this West Region third-round matchup at Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena.
Irving was a little rusty early on in his first game action since last December due to a severe toe injury but still led Duke (-11.5) in scoring, finishing with 14 points on 4 of 8 shooting from the field. The Blue Devils dominated from the start, building a 39-22 lead at halftime and ended up outrebounding the Pirates by a 36-25 margin. They also got 13 points from Andre Dawkins, 12 from Mason Plumlee and 11 from Kyle Singler in a balanced scoring effort.
Hampton made just 34.5 percent of its shots from the field and only went to the free-throw line seven times compared to 16 for Duke. The Pirates did not have one player score in double figures, a testament to the outstanding defense played by the Blue Devils.
Michigan outscored the Volunteers 42-16 in the second half after holding a four-point lead at halftime, putting an exclamation point on what could be the last game at Tennessee for embattled head coach Bruce Pearl. Like Duke, the Wolverines held the opposition to just 35 percent shooting and also forced 18 turnovers while holding a 35-24 advantage on the boards.
Five players scored in double figures for Michigan led by Zack Novak with 14 points. Novak made 5 of 10 shots from the field, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range, and also had a team-high 10 rebounds. Three Wolverines finished with 11 points, including Tim Hardaway Jr., Stu Douglass and Matt Vogrich.
While Michigan is just 5-3 straight-up in its last eight games, the team has covered the spread in every one of them during that stretch, including seven as underdogs. The Wolverines were 1-point dogs against the Vols and beat Michigan State 70-63 at home on March 5 as 1-point favorites.
The Blue Devils have won four in a row both SU and against the spread after failing to cover their last three games of the regular season. Before that rough patch that also saw them drop two of three SU, they won seven straight and went 6-1 ATS in those games. The UNDER has cashed in eight of their last 10 games along with 11 of 14.
Duke’s last nine wins have all been decided by 10 points or more with an average margin of victory of more than 18 points. Only two of those games were decided by less than 14 points.
Pick: Duke -11.5