The college season got off to a conservative start last night, with only a few top teams playing a legitimate opponent. One of them, Louisville, looked as good as advertised handling Minnesota by double digits while their star big man Montrez Harrell put himself quickly into National POY talk with a 30/7 night. VCU also looked solid, easily handling Tennessee and helping us notch a winner in the season debut.
But the most impressive team might have been the Duke Blue Devils. Yes, Presbyterian is far from a high caliber opponent, but their 113-44 win was breathtaking to watch. They are starting three freshman for the first time in decades, and every one of them looked fantastic, especially the heavily-hyped Jahlil Okafor. They play a rare college back-to-back tonight, so will they show any signs of fatigue or complacency?
Let’s dive inside the Blue Devils tilt against Fairfield for today’s free pick.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Fairfield Stags at Duke Blue Devils -25.5
Duke is loaded once again and despite the bevy of talent that has passed through Cameron Indoor, this might be the most talented team Coach K has fielded in a decade. Big man Jahlil Okafor is likely the first pick in next season’s draft, and fellow freshman Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen can all play. Add in the veteran leadership and perimeter shooting of Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook and you have a balanced and lethal offensive club.
But where the Dookies can really turn up the heat, especially against lesser-talented opponents, is on the defensive end with the smothering pressure. We’ve seen in recent years this pressure might not work against another elite team, but it does swallow up small conference foes unmercifully, especially in Cameron. Duke has won 110 straight non-conference home games in the regular season and 34 straight at home overall. It’s going to be a tough night for the Fairfield Stags.
In Fairfield’s defense, they played well in their win over Quinapiac yesterday, who many have just behind Iona and Sienna in the MAAC this season. Most of those same people also have Fairfield near the bottom, battling with Niagara to avoid the conference cellar. They return their top three players from last year’s tough season, so some improvement is expected. But this is a .500 team at best in a mid-major conference. They will overwhelmed, both athletically and in terms of depth, tonight at Cameron Indoor.
When you play Duke on the road, turnovers lead to transition baskets. Unlike many teams, those transition baskets are layups, they are backbreaking three pointers, and they can come from nearly every player they run onto the court. It makes 8-10 points games in 20-25 point deficits in the blink of an eye. I expect a few of those runs to be the undoing of Fairfield early and for another massive Blue Devils win.