NCAA Tournament officials and the various broadcast networks can claim all they want about not caring who wins the Big Dance, but without question the most "popular" and best-rated result this year would be Duke taking the national championship in the final season with Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski on the bench. The Blue Devils are +1400 at Caesars Sportsbook to win it all and have an Over/Under of 2.5 wins in the event.
Unfortunately for Duke, it is the second seed in the West Region behind tournament betting favorite Gonzaga, although the Blue Devils beat the Zags 84-81 the day after Thanksgiving in Las Vegas. Gonzaga suffered through a 0-for-5 span down the stretch and turned the ball over three times to allow Duke to close the game on a 13-9 run.
The Blue Devils are taking the most tickets to win it all at Caesars with nine percent followed by the Zags at eight percent. On money wagered, Gonzaga is No. 1 at 17 percent and Duke second at 10 percent.
Coach K's team has now been a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in 20 of its last 24 NCAA Tournament appearances since 1997. It's Duke's 44th NCAA Tournament appearance (fifth all time) and 36th under Coach K, breaking a tie with Syracuse's Jim Boeheim for most appearances by a head coach – the Orange didn't make it this year. Coach K holds the record by far with 97 NCAA Tournament wins; No. 2 is retired North Carolina coach Roy Williams with 79.
The Under 2.5 wins is the -180 betting favorite on this prop, which frankly surprises me. Clearly, Duke should handle No. 15 seed Cal State Fullerton on Friday and would face either No. 7 Michigan State (last Coach K matchup with Tom Izzo) or No. 10 Davidson on Sunday in the Round of 32. To get Over 2.5 wins (+150) likely means a Sweet 16 victory over No. 3 Texas Tech.
That Duke makes the Sweet 16 is -270 with no at +200. The Blue Devils didn't make it last year and there was no tournament in 2020. They haven't lost in the second round since 2017. To reach the Elite Eight, Duke is +145 on a yes-only prop and for the Final Four is +400. Duke had been +1100 to win a national title until it was placed in the same region as Gonzaga.
There's also a prop of which No. 2 seed advances the furthest: Kentucky is the +110 favorite, followed by Duke at +285, Auburn at +300 and Villanova at +475. On a head-to-head wins prop, Duke is -115 and Villanova -105.
Nova, the No. 2 in the South, opens with No. 15 Delaware and then would face either No. 7 Ohio State or No. 10 Loyola Chicago in Round 2. In the Sweet 16 if chalk held, it would be Villanova vs. No. 3 and SEC Tournament champion Tennessee.
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