Looking at the current college basketball odds to be the last team standing in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, you will see the Duke Blue Devils as the overwhelming favorites to cut down the nets.
But that is not to say the Blue Devils do not have any tests to pass the rest of the way at the end of the regular season, as this week alone will offer two tough challenges for them in ACC play.
After reclaiming the top spot in the polls, Duke will host the eighth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on Wednesday before visiting the unranked Syracuse Orange in a huge revenge spot on Saturday with the ESPN College Gameday crew at the Carrier Dome. Both games are expected to set attendance marks for the season at each location, as Zion Williamson and the rest of the Blue Devils go for their 10th straight win.
Duke’s last setback came versus Syracuse in overtime at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 14. The Blue Devils closed as 17-point home favorites on the college basketball odds and fell 95-91, and they have gone 5-4 against the spread since then during their nine-game winning streak. Duke has failed to cover each of its last two games despite beating the 18th-ranked Louisville Cardinals and North Carolina State Wolfpack by a combined 18 points.
For the Orange, they will be playing their toughest consecutive home games of the year this week as well, hosting the Cardinals first on Wednesday in a conference matchup both teams would like to win in order to help them get into the Big Dance. Syracuse is listed at +5000 on the odds to win the NCAA Tournament while Louisville is sitting at +7500 on those March Madness odds.
The Tar Heels are +2500 and can certainly help themselves by pulling off an upset at Durham. They close out the regular season by hosting the Blue Devils on March 9, the last of their three home games, with the 16th-ranked Florida State Seminoles and Orange coming to Chapel Hill over the next week on February 23 and 26, respectively.
The Seminoles might have the most value of any team in the ACC right now at +9000 on the March Madness betting futures, mostly because they have an extremely favorable schedule down the stretch. Outside of visiting North Carolina on Saturday, Florida State faces only one other ranked conference team in the 20th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies, and that game will take place at home on March 5.
Winning four of their last six games of the regular season may be enough to secure a fourth-place finish in the ACC behind the big three.
The third-ranked Virginia Cavaliers are the third member of that group along with the Tar Heels and Blue Devils, and they are one of three teams at +800 to win it all behind Duke and the fifth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers (+750) on the college basketball odds. The Cavaliers have suffered both of their two losses to the Blue Devils over the past month following a 16-0 start.
The biggest problem for Virginia though that bettors should consider before wagering on the team’s futures is the mental aspect of the game. On paper, the Cavaliers definitely deserve to be ranked among the top five schools in the country, and they may even be able to build a case for a No. 1 seed again by winning the ACC Tournament.
However, last year’s shocking 74-54 loss to the 16th-seeded UMBC Retrievers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament may be difficult to overcome. In the past five years, Virginia has been a No. 1 or 2 seed in the Big Dance four times but got as far as the Elite Eight just once, falling victim to a lower-seeded foe on each occasion over that stretch.