ELON PHOENIX (5-4)
at DUKE BLUE DEVILS (8-0)
Cameron Indoor Stadium - Durham, NC
Tip-off: Monday, 7:00 p.m.
Line: Duke -31.5
No. 2 Duke looks to remain undefeated when it hosts Elon on Monday night.
The Phoenix (4-1 ATS) are looking to bounce back from a close 78-73 loss at 13-point favorite Missouri on Thursday, which made them 3-0 ATS in true road games this season. But Monday's road trip will be much more difficult against the Blue Devils (6-2 ATS) who have dominated this series in the past two seasons, winning 76-54 at home in 2012 and then 86-48 on a neutral court last season. In that New Year's Eve contest, Elon had problems handling the Duke pressure, as the Phoenix turned the ball over 22 times and were outshot 49% FG (53% threes) to 35% FG (24% threes). The Blue Devils have been outstanding this season, winning every game by at least 10 points. But they have been off for 12 days since an 80-70 road victory at then-No. 2 Wisconsin, so they could be a bit rusty. However, Duke is 23-11 ATS (68%) in the past three seasons after scoring 80+ points in each of its previous two games. But Elon benefits from the fact that road underdogs (or pick) in a game involving two teams with 8+ PPG margins, after allowing 40+ points in the first half in two straight games are 49-21 ATS (70%) since 1997. The only significant injury for either team is Elon PF Brian Dawkins who has yet to play this season due to a knee injury.
Can Duke cover the enormous spread on Monday night? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks. The experts have begun the 2014-15 season with a bang, posting a collective 56% ATS mark (69-55) in Best Bets. The five experts are led by StatFox Gary's stellar 68% ATS mark (17-8), while StatFox Brian is 60% ATS (15-10) and StatFox Zach is 58% ATS (14-10) to open the season.
The Phoenix have been very good on the offensive end of the court, ranking 31st in the nation scoring (77.9 PPG), thanks to a strong 37.2% clip from three-point range. They are also 30th in rebounding (40.7 RPG), but have more turnovers (124) than assists (118) which has led to a low 43.4% FG rate. Elon does a great job of attacking the basket, as it averages 19.9 foul shots per game, but converts only 70% from the charity stripe. But the team has a lot of guys that can get to the basket and score. PG Luke Eddy (13.6 PPG, 16-of-32 threes) and SG Tanner Samson (13.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 44% threes) are both capable of having big games. Each guard has scored at least 25 points in a game this season, and Eddy is coming off a 27-point performance against Missouri where he was 8-of-15 from the field and 8-of-8 from the line. The sophomore has seen his minutes nearly triple from last season, and he is showing that he has the ability to be an all-conference performer. A big thing in this game will be how the Phoenix play defense against Duke in the frontcourt, as they have only three players on the team standing 6-foot-8 or taller, and freshman PF Jack Anton (2.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG) and senior SF Ryan Winters (5.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG) will both have to play huge in this game.
The Blue Devils have been dominant on the offensive end of the court this season, ranking second in the nation in both scoring (89.1 PPG) and shooting (53.9% FG), while ranking third in assists (19.0 APG). Duke has relied too much on three-pointers the past couple of seasons, but now has a go-to player in the paint with freshman C Jahlil Okafor (17.1 PPG, 65% FG, 7.6 RPG, 1.5 BPG). Okafor can score in many different ways, as he can score over both shoulders on the block and he can even step out and hit the jump shot. He has scored at least 10 points with five rebounds in every game this season, and has averaged 19.3 PPG on 72% FG (26-of-36) in his past three contests. There were some question marks about whether PGs Quinn Cook (15.3 PPG, 3.6 APG, 2.9 RPG) and Tyus Jones (10.5 PPG, 5.8 APG, 1.5 SPG) could co-exist with each other in the backcourt, but they have complemented each other perfectly. Cook has developed more into a scorer, and he has shown the ability to hit from deep (44% threes). Jones is a traditional point guard, who does a great job of attacking the paint and finding the open player on the court. His assist-to-turnover ratio is an outstanding 5.8 this season (46 Ast, 8 TO). Another freshman, SF Justise Winslow (12.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 39% from threes) is showing he can be a great contributor on the team, especially on defense where on most nights he will guard the opposing team's best scorer. PF Amile Jefferson (8.9 PPG, 69% FG, 8.3 RPG) and SG Rasheed Sulaimon (7.4 PPG, 37% threes) are also key contributors to this undefeated team.