Duke vs. Gonzaga Continental Tire Challenge Preview and Best Bet

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Drew Timme #2 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images/AFP

Gonzaga had its undefeated run snapped in the national championship game last season, leaving coach Mark Few with a tough motivational challenge. The team can’t right the one wrong from last year until April, so to keep the Zags motivated this season, he’s constructed a nearly impossible schedule.

Gonzaga faces Duke in Las Vegas on Black Friday in its second top-five opponents of the week. Let’s see the NCAAB odds.

Duke Blue Devils vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs

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

Gonzaga fell one game short of an undefeated national championship season last year, losing to Baylor in the title game. That left Zags coach Mark Few with a tough motivational challenge for this season. The team can’t right the one wrong from last year until the first Monday in April, so to keep his team motivated, he’s constructed a nearly impossible schedule.

Gonzaga faced then No. 5 Texas in its second game, winning by 12. This week, the Zags headed to Vegas for a pair of top five games. They pounded No. 2 UCLA, winning by 20 earlier in the week. Now, Gonzaga prepares for a Black Friday game against No. 5 Duke.

Battle in the Paint

Duke freshman Paolo Banchero will have the chance to make his case to be the top pick in next spring’s NBA Draft, as he’ll likely be matched up against the other top candidate for that spot, Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren, for much of the night. The marquee battle of the game will be Gonzaga’s post players—Holmgren and All-America candidate Drew Timme—against Duke’s Banchero and seven-footer Mark Williams.

Like Holmgren, Banchero is a new-breed “unicorn” player—a big man who can handle the ball like a guard or wing. He struggled with turnovers in the first few games but has since adjusted to the college game. He has 11 assists and one turnover in his last three games.

“You think about the playmaking, the scoring, and then the defending. He’s a complete player, and someone who is really just scratching the surface of who he can be.” Size-wise, it makes more sense to have the 6-foot-10 Banchero on the 6-foot-10 Timme and let Williams handle Holmgren.

But Williams is more of a classic center and will struggle to follow Holmgren out to the perimeter, so look for Banchero to get the assignment. Duke also has grad transfer Theo John, who was one of the Big East’s top shot blockers at Marquette. He and Williams have been praised for their “grown man bodies” which should give Duke an advantage against the slender Holmgren.

Guard Play Is Key

While Holmgren and Timme rightfully get much of the attention for Gonzaga, guard Andrew Nembhard was the hero in the blowout of UCLA. He scored a game-high 24, hitting all of his two-point attempts, and dished out a game-high six assists. He also shut down UCLA’s leading scorer Johnny Juzang, who scored just 11 points and turned it over four times.

Gonzaga also has shooters who can make teams pay for selling out to defend the post. c is hitting 48.3 percent of his three-point attempts and averaging 14.3 ppg and 5.7 rebounds. Rasir Bolton is connecting on 52.2 percent of his threes. Duke allowed the Citadel to hit 18-of-34 from three in the last game, although the Blue Devils had been strong on the perimeter in previous games.

Duke has plenty of weapons in the backcourt to match up with the Zags. Wendell Moore is nearly dead even with Banchero as Duke’s leading scorer, with both averaging just over 17 ppg. Moore also adds 6.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists a night and became just the fifth Blue Devil in history to record a triple-double.

Point guard Jeremy Roach, scoring guard Trevor Keels and explosive wing AJ Griffin give Duke plenty of options on the perimeter. Take this into consideration next time you see our NCAAB picks.

The Pick

With size inside and experienced, explosive guard play, Duke seems to match up with Gonzaga better than UCLA did. Still, it’s tough to find a weakness on the Zags. Holmgren will be a tough matchup for anyone, and even with depth in the post, Duke could struggle with foul trouble. Look for the Zags to pull away.

NCAAB Pick: Gonzaga -7.5 (-115) with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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