December 19, 2013

Basketball Pick: UCLA vs. Duke

Matchup: UCLA Bruins vs. Duke Blue Devils

Date/Time: December 19th, 7:30 ET

Television: ESPN

College Basketball Odds from WagerWeb

Point Spread: Off

Total: Off

Thursday promises to be a prime match-up when the Duke Blue Devils meet the UCLA Bruins inside Madison Square Garden at 7:30 ET on ESPN. Duke comes in ranked eighth in the country at 8-2 SU and, at 9-1 SU, UCLA will be looking to pull the upset.

The Bruins will enter MSG as the third-highest scoring team in the country averaging 89.1 points per game. UCLA will be facing its toughest challenge of the season as Duke will be its first ranked opponent in a schedule that has been less than impressive thus far. In their only other road contest the Bruins lost 80-71 to the Missouri Tigers earlier this month. Leading scorer G Jordan Adams averages 21.2 points per game. Adams had 18 points in his team’s last outing a 95-71 win over the Prairie View A&M Panthers. The Bruins have a balanced offensive attack with G Zach LaVine (13.8 PPG), F Kyle Anderson (13.8 PPG), and G Norman Powell (12.2 PPG). UCLA is ranked second in the nation in field goal percentage shooting 54.3 percent to start the season. Defensively the Bruins average 11 steals per game, Adams leads the squad swiping 3.5 of those per game. UCLA has started its season strong at 6-3 ATS including a 4-1 ATS mark in its last five games. They have covered some huge spreads against these lesser opponents, but they will be an underdog in this contest.

Duke has faced an amazingly tough schedule early, and that can only help as the season plays out. The Blue Devils’ two SU losses are to the top-ranked Arizona Wildcats and #5 Kansas Jayhawks. Freshman F Jabari Parker averages 22.0 points per game in a season where he is building his NBA draft stock. Parker put on a show Monday night as he scored 21 points in Duke’s 85-66 over the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs. The complement to Parker has been G Quinn Cook who is averaging 14.7 points per contest to go with 6.6 assists. Cook turned in 16 points and nine assists Monday. Defensively Duke’s opponents are shooting 45.7 percent from the field which ranks it 228th in the country and scoring 72.5 points per game ranking the scoring defense 218th. The Blue Devils are 1-2 SU and ATS when playing away from Cameron Indoor Stadium. They have played two contests in MSG this season and went 1-1 in those games with the win coming over the Alabama Crimson Tide. Duke is an even 5-5 ATS this season after it failed to cover against Gardner-Webb.

Prediction:

These two have not faced off since November 30, 2002, a game Duke won 84-73. We believe the neutral site of this contest will help the Bruins cover the spread against a Blue Devils team that has struggled ATS to this point. UCLA is 2-0 ATS this season when playing at a neutral site. Look for that trend to continue as the Bruins will stay close in this one and put a scare into the Blue Devils. Duke 78 – UCLA 77

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Adam Markowitz

is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.

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