Duke vs. Gonzaga Continental Tire Challenge Picks and Odds Breakdown

Drew Timme #2 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP 

The sportsbooks have released their NCAAB odds for tonight’s high-profile affair between Duke and Gonzaga. Both teams are undefeated and ranked top-five. 

Gonzaga will try to beat its third top-five team in November. Duke will try to earn respect by upsetting Gonzaga. For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for this game.

Duke Blue Devils vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Friday, November 26, 2021 – 10:30 PM EST at T-Mobile Arena

Gonzaga Is Overrated 

First of all, I want to say that I will not claim that Gonzaga is a bad team or anything similarly unfounded.

I simply worry that the betting public’s perception of Gonzaga’s quality is unjustifiably positive. I worry that the Zags might seem so unbeatable that people will simply assume that they will cover the almost double-digit spread in tonight’s game.

But two things put the Zags’ season so far into perspective: an account of their victories so far and of their offseason losses. Regarding the former, Gonzaga beat a Texas team that, though highly-ranked and talented, is trying to adopt a new system as new head coach Chris Beard tries to instill a new way of playing into a group of guys he did not recruit.

Moreover, the Zags beat a UCLA team that simply got hot at the right time last year after a Michigan State collapse allows the Bruins to sneak past the play-in round. While, this year, the Bruins beat a highly-ranked Villanova team, it is getting easier to see how over-ranked the Wildcats were especially given their deficiency at the center position and in their interior defense.

So, while a lot of hype is generated over the fact that Gonzaga has beaten two top-five teams in November, this hype must be qualified.

Regarding Gonzaga’s personnel, the Bulldogs lost truly incredible and crucial pieces during the offseason. They simply haven’t faced a team with the quality or skill set to expose the significance of those losses.

Jalen Suggs, Joel Ayayi, and Corey Kispert were all solid pieces for Gonzaga last year. Kispert and Suggs both got drafted within the first 15 picks of the most recent NBA Draft.

Gonzaga is using a transfer from Iowa State, a benchwarmer from last year, and youth to replace the losses of those experienced and proven studs.

Duke‘s Perimeter Defense 

The reduction of quality in Gonzaga’s perimeter game will hurt the team tonight given the quality of Duke’s perimeter defense.

For the Blue Devils, Wendell Moore already established himself as a strong perimeter defender last year. With a nearly 6’11 wingspan, Moore has a good length.  His versatility has been evident in his ability to lock down both guards and forwards.

Additionally, Trevor Keels has made an immediate impact, which is reflected in his ranking 99th nationally in steal rate. Like Moore, he is lengthy. He also injects physicality into the guard position.

Point guard Jeremy Roach, furthermore, displayed his strong on-ball defense when Duke beat Kentucky. His ability to cause turnovers — his Kentucky counterpart had seven of them — helped limit Kentucky’s point guard to his worst game of the season as measured by offensive rating.

Defending Timme and Holmgren 

Know for your best bets that Gonzaga’s perimeter players are so important to get the team’s big men involved.

For all of the hype that Drew Timme receives, he is very reliant on his team’s guards putting him in a position to succeed. Almost 70-percent of his field-goal attempts come at the rim and more than half of his field-goal attempts are assisted.

It is crucial, therefore, that Duke has the perimeter defenders to make playmaking difficult to accomplish for Bulldog guards. One way in which Gonzaga will try to alleviate pressure for its playmakers is by using the ball-screen.

Andrew Nembhard is key here. The former Gator is a pass-first guy as evident in his low percentage of shot attempts and his high assist rate. Nembhard will have to deal with Roach, who will try to induce yet another point guard to turn it over seven times.

When Nembhard doesn’t turn it over, he’ll be running a lot of pick-and-rolls with Timme. Gonzaga loves this type of action. Against Kentucky, Blue Devil center Mark Williams positioned himself almost parallel to the level of the screen. 

He’d slide with the opposing guard in order to keep him from driving past him and in order to allow his screened teammate to recover to his man.

Since Nembhard is not much of a scorer or a shooter — his career three-point conversion rate is an unimpressive 33 percent; he is no Trae Young — Williams can afford to drop back further to protect the basket.

Williams’ combination of footwork and recovery speed and length at 7-0 makes him a versatile weapon and a useful one against a pick-and-roll-heavy offense lacking a pull-up threat. His size, moreover, distinguishes him from the undersized bigs at Texas who Timme could thrive against.

As for Bulldog Chet Holmgren, his ball-handling skills have received much hype. But he is still too raw to make much use of them. Holmgren is still going to be tough for teams whose big men are uncomfortable on the perimeter. 

But Duke’s Paolo Banchero operates comfortably behind the arc on both ends of the court. He is a mobile kind of player who can match up with Holmgren.

Duke Offense vs. Gonzaga Defense 

There are a lot of reasons why Banchero is touted as a possible number-one draft pick. On offense, he is comfortable scoring on all three levels as he combines quickness, ball-handling, and long-range shooting with physicality inside at 6-10, 250 pounds.

His range of skills makes him uniquely difficult for the slower and less athletic Timme and for the skinny and vastly thinner Holmgren. Williams can also use his physicality and skill set to remain characteristically efficient inside.

A similar physical advantage exists for Keels, the 6-4, 221-pound shooting guard. Keels’ physicality gives him an important trait that his Bulldog on-ball defender will lack. Against Kentucky, Keels produced a highlight reel with his ball-handling off a screen.

He used screens to get ahead of his on-ball defender and then he utilized his superior physicality to keep his on-ball defender on his hip.

There are more advantages to break down with our Sports Betting in mind, but this combination of size and skill already establishes the theme for Duke’s offensive advantage over Gonzaga.

The Verdict 

Duke has the weapons — in the form of strong perimeter defenders and mobile bigs —  to limit Gonzaga’s pick-and-roll game, to stifle Bulldog guards, and to limit Holmgren.  Offensively, the Blue Devils enjoy sundry physical mismatches that will allow them to threaten from deep and control the area in front of the basket.

For the above reasons, invest in Duke with your NCAAB picks.

NCAAB Pick: Blue Devils +7.5 (-110) with FanDuel