Duke remains the favorite to win national championship. WTF?
The defending champion Blue Devils at +300 sit atop the Las Vegas Hilton’s odds to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Top-ranked and undefeated Ohio State is next at +400, followed by Kansas (+600) and Texas (+800).
A lot of offshore sportsbooks don’t have NCAA Tournament odds up. I first found some at Sportsbook.com
Tuesday, but thought they were outdated when I saw Duke favored. Then, the good guys at the Hilton sent me their numbers Wednesday and confirmed that it was not a mistake – in some oddsmakers’ eyes, Duke is still the team to beat.
I repeat: WTF?
Ohio State, Kansas and Texas are better than Duke, right? I don’t think I’m throwing shocking news out there by writing that.
Las Vegas oddsmaker Pete Korner of the Sports Club says the Buckeyes would be 4-point favorites over Duke on a neutral floor. The Jayhawks would be 2.5-point favorites over the Blue Devils and a Duke-Texas game would a pick ‘em, according to Korner.
The power ratings I looked at, including Pomeroy, Sagarin, Massey and Covers Expert Nick Parsons’, all have Ohio State and Kansas rated ahead of Duke. Only one, Sagarin’s Predictor, has the Blue Devils ahead of Texas. So I’m not the only one that thinks Duke is a second-tier team.
Of course, Mike Krzyzewski disagrees.
"The team we played tonight can play with anybody, and we're getting to the point where we might be able to play with anybody," Krzyzewski told reporters after Wednesday’s comeback win over North Carolina. “Going forward, both teams will have a chance to cause trouble for some people."
The reaction was mixed after the Blue Devils came from 16 points down to knock off the Tar Heels. I downgrade Duke more for falling behind to an improving, but far from elite North Carolina team than I credit Coach K’s team for pulling it out in the second half. That’s not happening against a team with a more experienced backcourt, like say St. John’s, for example. The Red Storm annihilated Duke 93-78 in late January.
The Devils aren’t getting any bulkier down low by March, either. If North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller and John Henson had their way against Duke’s interior defense, think about what Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger or Kansas’ Morris twins would do.
A good NCAA Tournament draw could mask some of Duke’s flaws, but let’s not just automatically hand the defending champs a No. 1 seed. Some of Duke’s impressive non-conference wins don’t look as impressive now that Michigan State and Kansas State have imploded. And winning the ACC isn’t nearly the accomplishment it used to be.
The wildcard in all this Kyrie Irving, the Blue Devils’ stud freshman point guard who has been out since early December with a toe injury. Irving got the cast off his right foot last week, generating some speculation that he might return this season. But Krzyzewski has repeatedly said that Irving will not be back this year.
If Coach K is playing coy and Irving returns, I’ll re-assess, but right now Duke doesn’t look like the favorite to win the national title to me, despite what some oddsmakers suggest.Player of the Year OddsBodog.com
has been Jimmered.
The offshore sportsbook posted BYU star Jimmer Fredette as a +125 (5/4) favori