Duke vs. Houston Prediction, Odds and Key Players for NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 (Target total)

Mar 24, 2024; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Jared McCain (0) reacts after a basket
Mar 24, 2024; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Jared McCain (0) reacts after a basket / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

No. 1 seed in the South Region, Houston, survived a scare on Sunday night, holding off No. 9 seed Texas A&M in overtime to advance to the Sweet 16. 

The Cougars are now set to face No. 4 seed Duke in the Sweet 16 with a spot in the regional final. The Blue Devils took down a pair of mid-majors in its first two games, handling Vermont and James Madison with ease setting up a battle of the high-profile Duke team against the rugged Cougars. 

Who has the edge? Houston is laying a small number, can the team shut down Duke’s offense en route to the Elite Eight? 

Here’s our full betting preview. 

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Duke vs. Houston Odds, Spread and Total

Houston vs. Duke Betting Trends

  • Duke is 20-14 against the spread (ATS) this season
  • Duke is 0-2 ATS as an underdog this season
  • Houston has gone UNDER in 20 of 36 games this season, but OVER in both games in the NCAA Tournament
  • Duke has gone OVER in both games as underdogs this season

Duke vs. Houston How to Watch

  • Date: Friday, March 29th
  • Game Time: 9:39 PM EST
  • Venue: American Airlines Arena
  • How to Watch (TV): CBS
  • Duke Record: 26-8
  • Houston Record: 32-4

Duke vs. Houston  Key Players to Watch


Jared McCain: McCain has been a marksman from the perimeter all season, and he came up huge on Sunday in the team’s thrashing of James Madison, scoring 30 points while making eight threes. The freshman now faces a step up in class in Houston’s rugged defense, but one that will let teams shoot from distance. 


Jamal Shead: Shead was heroic in the team’s win against Texas A&M, scoring 21 points, grabbing five rebounds, and dishing out 10 assists, making clutch play after clutch play. Now, he’ll face Duke’s loaded defense that presents a host of different players and looks to throw at him, how will he respond?

Houston vs. Duke Prediction and Pick

It was a tale of two games for Duke, who struggled to get separation from Vermont in the first round for the first 30 minutes of the game before Vermont’s ineffective offense let go of the rope against Duke’s sheer talent. Meanwhile, in the second game, the team played to its level from the tip and destroyed James Madison in short order. 

However, the team will face a physical Houston unit that I don’t believe Duke will be able to handle, similar to when the team was disposed of against a bruising Tennessee team in the second round last season. 

Duke has plenty of shot-making, the team is 18th in effective field goal percentage but hasn’t been challenged with an intense ball-pressure defense like Houston’s presents, posting the third-highest turnover rate in the country. 

With the Cougars' ball-trapping defense, the likes of Jeremy Roach will need to swing the ball quickly as the likes of McCain and Tyrese Proctor will be relied on heavily to cash in from beyond the arc. Houston does allow a top 100 rate of threes, but the team contests all of them. Houston is in the 98th percentile in spot-up points allowed per possession at an incredibly high rate (27% of defensive possessions), per Synergy Sports. 

On the other side, I believe Houston’s ability to clean the glass can look similar to how North Carolina dominated Duke on the glass. North Carolina had an offensive rebounding rate north of 25% in both wins against Duke, and Houston is even better than that, 11th in the country instead of 73rd. 

However, Houston is outside the top 200 in effective field goal percentage, so I'm not sure that the team will take full advantage.

In a battle of two teams that want to play slow and in the halfcourt, Duke is 245th in adjusted tempo and Houston is 346th, per KenPom, I’ll go with the under. 


Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.