Even the Duke haters should admire Jayson Tatum, a dynamic freshman who took some time to develop into a star. But for Tatum and his team, the photo of this season is finally in focus.
A week ago, the Blue Devils were the No. 5 seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and on the brink of being written off. Four wins in four days changed the storyline.
Tatum averaged 22 points in four ACC tournament games — scoring 20 against Clemson, 25 against Louisville, 24 against North Carolina and 19 against Notre Dame — to elevate Duke (27-8) to a No. 2 seed in the East Region of the NCAA Tournament.
The haters still will root against controversial guard Grayson Allen and coach Mike Krzyzewski, and some Las Vegas bookmakers also will be hoping bad luck strikes down the Devils.
South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro said two significant futures wagers were recently placed on the Blue Devils. The first $10,000 bet came in at 10-1 odds. Another $10,000 bet followed at 15-2 odds.
“Those are really the only big bets we’ve taken,” Vaccaro said. “That’s our biggest decision.”
The South Point lists Duke and North Carolina as 5-1 co-favorites to win the NCAA championship.
The Blue Devils have stumbled early in the NCAA Tournament, losing to 14th-seeded Mercer in 2014 and 15th-seeded Lehigh in 2012.
Duke is a 19-point favorite over Troy in Friday’s first round. The Westgate posted a proposition on the Blue Devils’ tournament wins, and the total is 2½ (Over minus-160).
Tatum, a 6-foot-8 forward, might wind up as the No. 1 pick in the draft. Still, forget about the NBA for now. This week is all about the betting madness of college basketball.
Florida Gulf Coast, Kent State, Iona and New Mexico State are the tournament’s No. 14 seeds. That is worth mentioning because a No. 14 seed has won at least one game in four consecutive years.
The 5-12 matchups are always dangerous for the favorites. The No. 12 seeds won two first-round games last year. Middle Tennessee, NC Wilmington, Nevada and Princeton are the teams seeded 12th. The Blue Raiders are in a pick’em game against Minnesota, after the South Point opened the Gophers as 3-point favorites.
A Westgate prop on a No. 13 seed winning at least one game is Yes/No minus-110. The teams seeded 13th are Bucknell, East Tennessee State, Vermont and Winthrop.
DO NOT CALL IT AN UPSET …
If 10th-seeded Wichita State beats No. 7 Dayton on Friday. The Shockers are 6-point favorites. In Ken Pomeroy’s ratings (Kenpom.com), Wichita is No. 8 in the nation. The NCAA selection committee obviously does not include any oddsmakers.
TOURNAMENT ACTION TIPS OFF
The First Four starts today in Dayton, Ohio. New Orleans is a 1½-point favorite over Mount St. Mary’s, and Kansas State is a 1½-point favorite over Wake Forest.
In Wednesday’s games, North Carolina Central is a popular play laying 3½ points to UC Davis. Southern California is drawing more money as a 2½-point favorite over Providence.