Duke vs. UCF point spread puts spotlight on Tacko Fall

Frank Doyle | Updated Mar 23, 2019

Even with Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett leading the charge, Duke couldn't cover a big spread on Friday. They'll be big favourites again on Sunday against the UCF Knights and their 7-foot-6 centre Tacko Fall.

If you have the Duke Blue Devils cutting down the nets next month, the first half of their opening game of the NCAA Tournament against North Dakota State had you squeezing the ink out of your Sharpie. Duke, which went off as a 27.5-point favourite, spent the first half looking for uncontested jumpers and steals, which had the Blue Devils trailing by a point with two minutes left in the first. If anything, that first 20 minutes should serve as a warning to first half bettors moving forward, but Duke was an entirely different team as they ran away with a 85-62 victory that covered the number. Now, Duke will be looking for a more complete game against the University of Central Florida Knights.

Duke’s RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson are March Madness showtime

When you have arguably March Madness’ two best players, a slow first half isn’t cause for concern. Barrett finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds and Williamson dropped 25 points as they collected highlight reel clips along the way, but they couldn’t cover the big spread. The thing about this dynamic duo is it’s obvious they love playing with each other. They’ve been roommates since they arrived at Duke and that bond that they have is evident on the court.

Odds against underdog UCF Knights

UCF isn’t going to be any picnic though. Early numbers had the Blue Devils set as 13-point favourites for this tilt with the Knights. On Friday, the Knights had a 10-point lead at the break against VCU and ran away with a 73-58 victory as 1.5-point favourites. UCF’s 7-foot-6 centre Tacko Fall balled out with 13 points, 18 rebounds, and five blocks in the win and will be in the spotlight as he’ll be tasked with taking care of the paint against Williamson and Barrett. UCF also hit 64 percent of its trey attempts and shot 49 percent from the floor. Duke’s defence often gets overshadowed by its offence, but it’s hard to imagine the Blue Devils allowing UCF to shoot that well on Sunday.

Duke point spread puts spotlight on Tacko Fall

That said, if Fall can frustrate the Blue Devils down low, this game might end up a lot closer than Duke would like in the second half. Fall’s length and athleticism is a wild card in this tournament. He can change the game at both ends of the floor and might give Duke trouble early. That said, don’t be surprised if Williamson goes right at Fall early to assert himself in the paint. If Zion can back down fall and push him deep into the key, Barrett will have the green light from outside and mid-range.

Duke vs. UCF prediction

The Blue Devils might be a team that is a terrible first half bet, but an excellent second half wager. Sunday’s game might be a good spot to watch the first half to see how they attack the paint before putting your cash down. If they can get some buckets down low and possibly put Fall in foul trouble, the second half could be a Duke highlight show.

Duke 77, UCF 54