Bracketologists and sports bettors alike had their hungry eyes on the No. 5 Utah Utes going into this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Utes (26-8 SU, 21-11-1 ATS) have paid off with a pair of early-round victories, and this Friday night, they’ll face a tougher challenge from the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils (31-4 SU, 20-14-1 ATS) in the Sweet Sixteen. Duke is favored by five points as we go to press.
Utah had to settle for a 5-seed after finishing behind the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats in the Pacific-12 Conference. But that only masks how potent the Utes are this year. Ken Pomeroy has them ranked eighth overall in efficiency (No. 19 offense, No. 7 defense), and that’s just two spots behind Duke (No. 2 offense, No. 46 defense) in Division I.
There’s even some buzz that Utah could be the team to eliminate Duke from the tournament. The Utes have impressive perimeter shooting (40.8%, seventh in Division I), and they also have 7-foot center Jakob Poeltl (24.7 PER), who might be able to contain Duke’s Jahlil Okafor (32.1 PER). Tip-off from Houston is at 9:45 PM ET on CBS.
PICK: Utah +5