The Duke Blue Devils have enjoyed smooth sailing in getting invited to the NCAA tournament each year, but despite their success, they've also encountered a bit of turbulence early in recent tournament action.
In fact, Duke has failed to get past the first weekend in three of its last seven tournament appearances and is just 3-6 ATS in its last nine opening-round tournament games.
The Blue Devils begin this year's tourney when they face the Mercer Bears in a South Region game on Friday afternoon in Raleigh.
Spread and Total Points Scored Betting Line
The Blue Devils opened as 10.5-point favorites, but bettors quickly pushed it to -13 at most sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The total had inched to 140.5 from an open of 143. (Compare lines and consensus on the Odds Shark matchup report)
Odds Shark Computer Pick
Why Pick Mercer to Cover the Spread
The No. 14 Bears started just 5-4 this season but went 21-4 from there, claiming a share of the Atlantic Sun regular-season title, then winning the conference tournament to earn their first NCAA berth since 1985.
After winning 24 games last year, Mercer starts five seniors, led by point guard Langston Hall (15 points, six assists per game) and 6'10" F Daniel Coursey. The Bears went 2-2 straight up against major-conference competition this year, beating Seton Hall and Ole Miss, losing to Texas (by three points) and Oklahoma.
They face a Duke team that has struggled with the point spread early in past tournaments.
Why Pick Duke to Cover the Spread
The No. 3 Blue Devils are in the tournament for the 19th straight season, after finishing third in the ACC during the regular season and making it to the conference tournament championship game, where they lost to Virginia.
Duke owns wins this season over Michigan, UCLA, Virginia, NC State, Pitt, Syracuse and North Carolina, and five of its losses came against Kansas, Arizona, the Orange, the Heels and the Cavaliers.
The Devils, as always, like to shoot the threes. When they're making them, they're tough to beat.
Smart Betting Pick
The Blue Devils own the obvious edge in talent, but Mercer is deep and experienced, with seven seniors in the regular rotation.
The spread on this game is based largely on reputation. Duke is still Duke, and who is Mercer? The Bears might have just enough guile and size to keep this one interesting. Take the points with a veteran Mercer team.
Mercer Bears: No. 89
Duke Blue Devils: No. 27 (per Odds Shark power ranks)
March Madness Betting Trends
- Duke 1-6-1 ATS past eight games
- Duke 3-6 ATS past nine second-round games
- Mercer 21-4 SU run this season
- Mercer scored wins over Seton Hall, Ole Miss this season