The 2021-22 college basketball season is upon us, and the nonconference schedule loaded with matchups between the top teams in the country. Below is my analysis and favorite bets for Black Friday’s primetime matchup between Duke and Gonzaga.

 

 

Duke vs. Gonzaga

(Line: Gonzaga -8, Total 154.5, DraftKings Sportsbook)

No. 1 Gonzaga gets a third primetime game in two weeks. The team has passed both tests so far with flying colors. The Zags completely exploited the new-look Longhorns’ weak interior defense and then demolished UCLA with flawless ball movement within their continuity motion offense and in transition. Can Gonzaga be stopped? It certainly hasn’t looked like it, and they now get matched up against America’s Sweetheart, the Duke Blue Devils, in the midst of Mike Krzyzewski’s farewell tour. The storylines are set, so giddy up. But I think things may change here and we could actually see a competitive bout.

Over the last few years, it’s been virtually impossible to stop the beautiful Gonzaga continuity offense with immaculate ball movement and shot selection. Yet, there is a specific defensive scheme that could slightly slow down the machine and disrupt what the Zags want to do, which both West Virginia and Baylor had in common a season ago. That is a defense that extends pressure in the backcourt and funnels ballhandlers into the lane with solid rim protection behind it. Which is exactly what Coach K’s Dukies like to do defensively. Granted Jeremy Roach and Wendell Moore aren’t lock down individual defenders like Baylor’s backcourt was (although vastly improved), they should still be able to disturb Gonzaga’s offensive sets and cause some chaos that the Zags haven’t seen this year yet. Plus, the tandem of Mark Williams and Theo Johns inside is pretty damn good at protecting the rim.

Of course, for Duke to stay competitive they will need to hit threes where they rank only 153rd nationally in three-point percentage and 197th in three-point FGA. Also, as I’ve been saying all year what makes this Gonzaga team different is the interior presence defensively that Chet Holmgren brings, which will cause some issues with Moore and Paolo Banchero finishing at the rim (the Holmgren/Banchero matchup is going to be electric). Nonetheless, with the defensive gameplan Coach K brings (and maybe a little final-coaching-year luck), I think Duke keeps this one competitive and it will come down the young Duke players making plays and hitting shots. It’s very tough to pick against the Zags, but this is one matchup where they may seem human, so I will take the points.

The Pick: Duke +8 

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