Iona Gaels (20-13) at Duke Blue Devils (26-7)
College Basketball: Thursday, March 15, 2018 at 2:30 pm (PPG Paints Arena)
The Line: Duke Blue Devils -20 -- Over/Under: Click to Get Latest Betting Odds
The Iona Gaels and Duke Blue Devils will square off at PPG Paints Arena this Thursday afternoon in the 1st round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.
The Iona Gaels (20-13; 11-7 MAAC) earned the 15-seed in the Midwest Region after winning the MAAC Championship for the 3rd straight year by defeating the Fairfield Stags, 83-71, on March 5th. Iona led by a 43-37 margin at halftime and pulled away early in the 2nd half after taking a 64-44 lead with just 11:44 left in regulation. Iona shot 47.5% from the field and 85.2% (23-27) from the FT-line in the victory. Leading the way for the Gaels was Roland Griffin who had 29 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, and 4 blocks. On the season, Iona is averaging 79.8 ppg on 46.2% shooting from the field. The Gaels are averaging 9.7 three-pointers per game on 38.8% shooting from beyond the arc. Offensively, Iona has been led by Rickey McGill (13.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 5.6 apg, 1.6 spg), E.J. Crawford (12.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.1 apg), Roland Griffin (10.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.4 apg), and Deyshonee Much (10.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.3 spg). Defensively, Iona is allowing their opponents to average 76.2 ppg on 45.8% shooting from the field. The Gaels have a rebound margin of -3.8 and a turnover margin of 2.0.
The Duke Blue Devils (26-7; 13-5 ACC) couldn’t secure the ACC Championship this season, however, the Blue Devils still earned a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament and should be looked upon as one of the favorites to win the tournament this season. Duke finished 2nd in ACC play this season, however, was knocked out the ACC Tournament after being defeated by their cross-town rivals, the North Carolina Tar Heels, by a 74-69 margin this past Friday. Duke fought back from a 70-55 margin with 6:44 left in regulation to make it game late, however, couldn’t force overtime after Grayson Allen’s three-pointer came up short at the end of regulation. Duke shot 40.7% from the field and 26.1% (6-23) from beyond the arc in the loss. Leading the way for the Blue Devils was Marvin Bagley III who had a double-double with 19 points, 13 rebounds, and 1 block. On the season, Duke is averaging 84.7 ppg on 49.3% shooting from the field. The Blue Devils average 8.3 three-pointers per game on 37.8% shooting from beyond the arc. Offensively, Duke has been led by Marvin Bagley III (21.1 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.0 bpg), Grayson Allen (15.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.7 spg), Gary Trent Jr. (14.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.2 spg), and Wendell Carter Jr. (13.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.2 bpg). Defensively, Duke is allowing their opponents to average 69.6 ppg on 40.1% shooting from the field. The Blue Devils have a rebound margin of 9.2 and a turnover margin of -0.6.
The Gaels are 5-1 ATS in thier last 6 games vs. ACC opponents, however, are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 NCAA Tournament games. The Blue Devils are 5-1 ATS in thier last 6 games following a ATS loss and 7-2 ATS in thier last 9 games overall.
Iona made a nice run in the MAAC tournament, however, this is a team that still has just won 5 of their last 9 games and has really struggled on the defensive end as they currently rank 273rd in scoring defense and defensive FG%. Duke has one of the most explosive offenses in the country as they rank 8th in scoring offense, 15th in FG%, and 52nd in 3P-FG% and has really picked up defensively as of late since switching to a zone defense. Iona has a decent offense, however, Duke just has too much size and offensive ability for the Gaels to make this a close game and as I feel Duke will be coming into the NCAA Tournament a bit more focused this year after being knocked out early last season, I’m taking Duke to cover this large spread.