Duke leads NCAA odds field in West Region

By: Stephen Nover | Monday, March 21, 2011

Like the other brackets, the NCAA Tournament West Regional has similar storylines heading into the Sweet 16.

There’s a strong No. 1 seed in defending champion Duke. There’s a Cinderella team, Arizona.  There’s a team from the bloodied but still alive Big East Conference in Connecticut and there’s a newcomer in San Diego State.

Oddsmakers see Duke as the heavy favorite to win the West Regional. The Blue Devils are 8 ½-point favorites to beat Arizona Thursday in Anaheim, Calif., 6:45 p.m. PT on CBS. The ‘over/under’ is 144 ½.

The Blue Devils are in the round of 16 for the 12th time in 14 years. Mike Krzyzewski’s team has won its last eight NCAA Tournament games. The Blue Devils have covered eight of their last 12 matchups this season.

Duke is minus 320 to capture the West Regional, according to odds at Bookmaker.com. Connecticut is next at plus 430 followed by San Diego State at 5/1 and Arizona at 10/1.

Duke also has the shortest odds of winning the tournament at plus 255. Ohio State and Kansas are each next at plus 265. No other team is lower than 11/1.

Connecticut and San Diego State both are 20/1. Arizona is 25/1.

The Blue Devils had covered four in a row, including destroying Hampton, 87-45, as 25-point favorites in the first-round of the tournament. Teams rarely win the tournament unless surviving at least one scare and the Blue Devils had theirs this past Sunday nipping Michigan, 73-71, as 12 ½-point favorites.

The combined 144 points went ‘over’ the 136-point total. It was just the fourth time in their last 15 games the Blue Devils had gone ‘over’ the total.

Sparked by Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, the Blue Devils are trying to become just the third school to repeat as national champions since 1974. Florida was the last to accomplish the feat winning in 2006 and ’07. Duke achieved it in 1991 and ’92 under Krzyzewski.

Arizona is a young team that has covered just three of its last 10 games. The Wildcats, though, have perhaps the best big man in the tournament, 6-foot-8 forward Derrick Williams.

The Wildcats upset Texas this past Sunday, 70-69, as 5 ½-point underdogs. The combined 139 points dipped ‘under’ the 141 ½-point total.

Arizona held the Longhorns to 45.3 percent shooting from the floor after allowing its previous nine opponents to make nearly 50 percent from the field. Arizona opened its NCAA Tournament by edging Memphis, 77-75, failing to cover as 5 ½-point favorites. The combined 152 points went ‘over’ the 141 ½-point total.

Like Duke, Arizona has a strong NCAA Tournament tradition having qualified 25 consecutive years until missing last season. The Wildcats have covered in nine of their last 13 non-conference matchups. Duke is 15-7 ATS in its past 22 non-league contests.

The Big East has only two of its 11 teams in the tournament remaining. Connecticut is one of them along with Marquette.

The Huskies are ‘pick’ versus San Diego State with the ‘over/under’ at 130. Game time is Thursday at 4:15 p.m. PT with CBS broadcasting.

The Huskies are riding a lot of momentum having beaten DePaul, Georgetown, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville during a span of five days to capture the Big East Conference Tournament.

Connecticut followed that up by waltzing over Bucknell, 81-52, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament covering as 10-point favorites and then defeating fellow Big East school Cincinnati, 69-58, this past Saturday as 3 ½-point favorites. The Huskies have covered in their last seven games.

Guard Kemba Walker has been nearly a one-man wrecking crew for the Huskies scoring 18 points against Bucknell and hitting for 33 versus Cincinnati. He’s 20-for-20 from the foul line in the NCAA Tournament.

San Diego State, in the Sweet 16 for the first time, rolled past Northern Colorado, 68-50, covering as 14 ½-point favorites in the first-round. The Aztecs then pulled off the luckiest cover of the tournament by downing Temple, 71-64, in double overtime this past Saturday as six-point favorites.

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