After four days of wall-to-wall action in the world of college basketball, only 16 teams remain in pursuit of the 2019 men’s college basketball title. Though there were some exciting match-ups along the way, “chalk” ruled opening weekend and, while that isn’t necessarily great in terms of looking back at the drama, it does set the stage for fascinating match-ups when the Sweet 16 commences on Thursday.
One of the more intriguing battles of the Round of 32 involved Duke being taken to the absolute brink by UCF, to the point where the Blue Devils have to feel exceptionally fortunate to remain alive in the tournament. Still, Coach K’s bunch remains the betting favorite at the Westgate Las Vegas, with fellow No. 1 seeds Gonzaga, Virginia and North Carolina in the next tier.
It comes as no surprise that Duke tops this list but it is worth noting that confidence has dwindled following the team’s close call. Prior to the first round, Duke was a more substantial favorite (in the neighborhood of 2-to-1) and the Blue Devils have been seen as the team to beat throughout the campaign, with Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cameron Reddish leading the way.
Still, UCF’s performance could be seen as a blueprint to take down the giant, as Duke’s perimeter shooting is a significant issue. Because of the reduced confidence in Duke (at least in part), teams like Gonzaga and Virginia enter the second weekend with better odds to cut down the nets, with the biggest jump coming from Auburn after their dismantling of Kansas in blowout fashion.
Duke will be favored in each and every game — beginning with its Sweet 16 match-up with ACC rival Virginia Tech and a potential Elite 8 clash with the winners of Michigan State-LSU — and fans still won’t be able to extract too much value in the Blue Devils. If those supporters waited until after the first two games, however, they’ll be rewarded with better odds on the team many projected to claim the ultimate prize in Minneapolis.