Check just about any list of championship odds for the 2019 NCAA Tournament, and you’re sure to find Duke on top after the Blue Devils opened Sunday as commanding 2-1 favorites and are currently listed at 9-4 at VegasInsider.com.
Gonzaga is a distant second behind the tourney’s No. 1 overall seed with 19-4 title odds, followed by Virginia (11-2), North Carolina (6-1), Kentucky (14-1) and Michigan State (14-1).
We also know, though, that the Big Dance’s No. 1 overall seed is no lock to win the title. Far from it in fact.
Since the NCAA first started declaring the No. 1-overall tourney seed in 2004, only seven of the 15 top dogs have made it to the Final Four and only three – Florida in 2007, Kentucky in 2012 and Louisville the following year – have gone on to dance beneath the postgame confetti at center court.
So why all the betting board love for the Blue Devils?
Here are five quick reasons to go chalk on Duke:
1. Seed history
Duke has been a No. 1 seed 13 times in the last 26 seasons and has advanced to the national championship game in more than half (seven) of those seasons, winning five titles. Two of the last three times the Blue Devils have been a No. 1 seed, they’ve won it all.
2. Elite talent
In Zion Williamson, the favorite to sweep the various national player of the year awards, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, Duke has a trio of freshmen who average a combined 58.7 points, 20.1 rebounds and 8.1 assists. When all three have been healthy and play close to a full game, the Blue Devils have lost only once this season. Williamson, Barrett and Reddish also all are near-consensus top-10 NBA Draft prospects, and possessing elite, pro-level talent is one of the top proven factors in winning collegiate championships.
3. Coach K
Few coaches, past or present, in any sport can match the track record of Mike Krzyzewski, who has coached the Devils for 35 seasons and guided them to the Big Dance 31 times. In those 31 appearances, Coach K’s teams have won a record 94 games, advanced to 12 Final Fours (tied with John Wooden for No. 1 all time) and won five national titles (second only to Wooden’s 10). Duke has made 24 straight NCAA Tournament appearances – second only to Kansas’ 30.
4. Big-game record
Duke has faced NCAA tourney qualifiers in 18 of its 34 games this season, and has gone 13-5 in those contests, including an 8-4 mark against teams who currently own top-five seeds. Again, though, only one of those losses – an 89-87 setback against West top seed Gonzaga in the Nov. 21 Maui Invitational title game – came when the Devils were at full strength.
5. The site
We save the most compelling reason for last as it’s proven to be 100 percent infallible.
Since the mid-1970s when Final Four became part of the college hoops lexicon and the NCAA tourney field was expanded to 32 teams, Minneapolis has hosted the Final Four twice (1992 and 2001).
Your national champion in both those seasons? You got it … Duke.