The second-seeded Duke Blue Devils (26-7) will begin their NCAA tournament run in a stacked Midwest Region on Thursday when they battle the 15th-seeded Iona Gaels (20-13) as big favorites in the round of 64.
The ninth-ranked Blue Devils also have the fourth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks (No. 1 seed) and fifth-ranked Michigan State Spartans (No. 3 seed) in their bracket as potential foes.
March Madness point spread: The Blue Devils opened as 20-point favorites; the total is at 157, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. (Line updates and matchup report.)
March Madness betting pick, via OddsShark computer: 80.6-52.6, Blue Devils (March Madness picks on every game.)
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Why Iona can cover the spread
The Gaels are one of the true Cinderella teams in the Big Dance as a lower-seeded team in their own conference tournament that earned an automatic bid. Iona was the No. 4 seed in the MAAC tournament and beat the sixth-seeded Fairfield Stags 83-71 as 2.5-point favorites to win it for the fourth straight year on March 5.
The Gaels were the preseason favorites to win the conference but got off to a rough 1-4 start before winning their last three en route to the tournament title, going 2-1 against the spread.
Why Duke can cover the spread
Duke continues to be one of the most talented teams in the country despite some disappointing losses this season. The Blue Devils lost to the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels twice, the latest setback coming in the semifinals of the ACC tournament. That happened three games after they fell to the Virginia Tech Hokies on the road as five-point road favorites on February 26.
The good news for Duke backers is that the team has rebounded with a vengeance for the most part following losses this year. The Blue Devils have gone 5-1 straight up and ATS previously under that scenario, with each of the five wins decided by 10 points or more.
Smart betting pick
Outside of the two recent losses, Duke has played its best basketball lately since getting off to an 11-0 start. The Blue Devils are 7-0 SU and ATS in their other seven games over their past nine. Meanwhile, Iona is 0-6 ATS in its last six after an ATS win, which does not bode well. Look for Duke to control the tempo and run up the score in an easy victory and cover.
March Madness betting trends
The total has gone under in eight of Duke's last nine games against teams with winning records.
Duke is 7-2 ATS in its last nine games.
Iona is 0-6 ATS in its last six games after an ATS win.
All college basketball odds and betting trends courtesy of Bleacher Report's official odds partner, OddsShark. Check out OddsShark on Twitter and Instagram or head to YouTube for more betting picks and analysis on this week's top games. You can also download the free odds tracker app.