Duke phenom Zion Williamson and the Blue Devils are favored to win the NCAA Tournament, according to the latest odds from BetOnline.Ag.
Duke, the No. 1 overall seed in the Big Dance, is listed at an 9/4 favorite to cut down the nets in Minneapolis on April 8, followed by Virginia at 11/2 and Gonzaga at 6/1.
North Carolina is at 8/1, with Kentucky and Michigan State at 12/1.
Duke is favored on 41 percent of brackets in the ESPN Tournament challenge, with North Carolina second at 14 percent.
“Individual goals, that’s not important to us,” Williamson told NCAA.com last month. “Everybody comes to college to try to win a national championship and I think that’s the final goal of everybody on this team.”
The ACC has three of the four No. 1 seeds in Duke (East), Virginia (South) and North Carolina (Midwest), with Gonzaga of the WCC as the final No. 1 (West).
After missing five games with a sprained knee, Williamson returned last week for the ACC Tournament, where he averaged 27 points and 10 rebounds in three games to lead Duke to the title over Florida State.
“Killers kill,” he said on ESPN after being named MVP of the ACC Tournament.
Top 4 seeds by Region pic.twitter.com/JbKM7LojMK— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) March 17, 2019
Still, not everyone, and not even every Duke alum, is picking the Blue Devils to win it all.
“The biggest thing that concerns me about Duke is the fact that they don’t have a guy named Marques Bolden,” former Duke star Jay Williams said Tuesday on ESPN’s “The Jump,” referring to Bolden’s knee injury sustained Saturday against Florida State. “Now Bolden may come back in the second week of the tournament. But he’s a 6-10 guy that is very agile that can move his feet on the perimeter. And that gives them depth at the low-post position.”
Williams pointed out that if Williamson gets in foul trouble with Bolden out, they could face problems against a team like Michigan State, which the Blue Devils could face in the East Regional final in Washington, D.C.
Williams also rightly points out that Duke only shoots 30 percent from deep and if they have a bad shooting night, they could go down.
“If a team packs it in and they get cold, that could be an issue,” Williams said. “Also, Duke shoots 69 percent from the free throw line. You need teams that can make free throws down the stretch to win games.”
Williams picked Kentucky to win it all. The Wildcats have looked dramatically better over the course of the season after getting hammered by Duke by 34 points on opening night in the Champions Classic. But they also lost to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament semifinals. In the Midwest Regional final, Kentucky could face North Carolina in a rematch of a game the Wildcats won in December.
“I think Duke is the best team in the tournament, but as we all know, the best team doesn’t always win the NCAA Tournament,” Williams said. “It could take one game for them being cold from outside or Zion being in foul trouble.”
These are fair points, but it says here you’d be crazy to bet against Williamson, Barrett and the Blue Devils in any one game.