Three things we learned about Duke last night.

Alex O’Connell has improved.

AOC could always shoot. That was what he was useful for in his first two seasons.  Last night AOC was not connecting at a high percentage but was still able to make an impact.  With four rebounds, three steals and two assists AOC was able to put together an impressive stat line that was more than just coming in and chucking shots all over the floor.  

The most notable play from last night was in the first half when he stormed towards the rim and finished a thunderous (for O’Connell) put back dunk.  That was a play that you would have never seen from AOC over the last few seasons.  The junior  has taken the next step in development and will be a key piece off the bench for Duke this season. 

Cassius Stanley is a spark plug.

Duke obviously lost its offensive spark plugs in Zion and RJ Barrett.  At a time in the second half when the Blue Devils were showing their youth and lack off firepower, Cassius Stanley was the guy that ignited the rally. Two thunderous dunks off of Kansas turnovers inspired the team.  

With just 2:29 left in the game it was Stanley hat was able to drive to the hoop and lay it in while being fouled.  After he sunk the free throw Duke took a one-point lead, one they would never relinquish.  Stanley had 11 of his 13 points in the second half, showing where the ball may be going in a time of need for Duke.  

This defense is very good. 

Tre Jones is widely considered the best on ball defender in all of college basketball.  His intensity showed in his teammates.  Kansas turned the ball over at an alarming rate, finishing the game with 28 turnovers.  While Duke cannot rely on a lack of ball security at that rate, they can rely on the effort from all five positions.

Kansas had a clear advantage with their size on the interior.  The Duke team defensive plan was to double the bigs as soon as possible. They did it to perfection.  The bigs doubled and while the guards were able to rotate and take away the outlet passes. The fact that Kansas got zero points from back to the basket posts and just four points on passes out of the double teams is a huge reason for them pulling out the victory.

NCAAB Picks ATS 1.19.19

Michigan Wolverines -3 at Wisconsin Badgers

The Michigan Wolverines are rolling right now.  Entering this matchup with a perfect record, most recently pounding the Northwestern Wildcats 80-60 last Sunday. The Wolverines have one of the most punishing defenses in the nation allowing just 56.5 points per game, 3rd fewest in division one basketball. They enter a matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers who’s only win in the last seven days was against Big Ten bottom dweller Penn State.  The Badgers have had some tough luck early in the Big Ten season as their last two losses to Purdue and Maryland were by a combined eight points. 

Wisconsin will need their star senior Ethan Happ to continue to play a vital role, operating as a do-it-all forward for the Badgers, as he’s averaging 19.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists. While he has some help with D’Mtrick Trice and Brad Davison the Wisconsin offense will need multiple players to play above their means on Saturday.  The bright side being that the Badgers are 8-2 straight up against Michigan in their last ten meetings at home.  The counter argument to Wisconsin’s home dominance is Michigan’s 5-1 record ATS over their last six away games.

The Wolverines are on a mission to finish what they started last March.  They continue that mission on Saturday handling the Badgers and covering the -3 spread.

Lousiville Cardinals -3.5 at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

The Louisville Cardinals were 12 point underdogs last Saturday when they visited Chapel Hill. Not only covering the spread but beating the Tarheels straight up.  Led by leading scorer Jordan Nwora’s 18.1 points and 8.1 rebound per game.  The Cardinals have looked like a different team since their loss to the rebuilding Pittsburgh Panthers.  The loss to the Panthers seemed to put this team back on track under the leadership of new Head Coach Chris Mack.

Georgia Tech currently sits at 10-7, 1-2 in the ACC with losses to Virginia Tech and Clemson.  The Jackets are 5-1 ATS in their last six Saturday games and 7-2 ATS in their last nine versus the ACC. Georgia Tech is a plucky team that can keep this one close but the Cardinals have been playing to well to fall off against a team that is not as talented.  Chris Mack won’t allow them to come out flat.

Virginia Cavaliers at Duke Blue Devils -1.5

The Cameron Crazies will be on edge waiting for this marquee matchup with the unbeaten Virginia Cavaliers.  The uncertainty of Tre Jones would have most people leaning towards Virginia in this matchup.  Without the defense of Tre Jones, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome should have no problem running what has become and efficient Virginia attack. They have a 56% effective field goal percentage and own a potent 40% clip from behind the arc.

The Blue Devils will have Cam Reddish back on the court Saturday which will give them another shooter to rely on. The struggles of co-captain Jack White from behind the arc put the Blue Devils in a bad position Monday night against the Syracuse zone, the return of Reddish and he likely minutes increase for sharpshooting sophomore Alex O’Connell will open up the middle for RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson to do their work. 

The Virginia defense is the best in the country but they are going up against their stiffest competition to date.  Virginia Tech does not have the athletes that the Blue Devils do.  I love this Virginia team but the worst thing that could of happened leading into this game was a loss to Syracuse.  Barrett, Williamson and company will come out with something to prove and Virginia will not be able to keep up on the offensive end. Duke wins by five.

Other picks for Saturday

Indiana +8

Kansas -5.5

Cincinnati/ Wichita State Under 135.5

Missouri +5

Memphis -3.5

Dayton -3.5