NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 11: The Duke Blue Devils bench reacts in the final seconds of their 75-69 win over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the championship game of the 2017 Men’s ACC Basketball Tournament at the Barclays Center on March 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

No one really thinks the Duke Blue Devils are the best college basketball team in the country.

Not the NCAA Tournament selection committee, which handed them a No. 2 seed. Not voters in the AP Top 25, which ranked them No. 14 in the season’s final poll. Not statistical sites like KenPom, which lists them at No. 12 based on a sophisticated efficiency-based formula.

And yet, despite all that, multiple Las Vegas sportsbooks have Duke, which lost eight games this season, pegged as NCAA Tournament favorites.

According to ESPN, both The Wynn and Westgate SuperBook have the Blue Devils as 5-1 favorites to win it all. Bovada has Duke tied with North Carolina at top, at +650. And even despite those optimistic odds, Duke is apparently attracting tons of bets.

But Duke’s uneven season didn’t deter the money on the Blue Devils. More money was bet on Duke to win the national title than any other team at the SuperBook, more than double the amount bet on Kentucky, which attracted the second-most money. The book at the South Point casino took two $10,000 bets on the Blue Devils from the same bettor in the past few weeks.

“They won’t stop betting it,” Ed Salmons, assistant manager at the SuperBook, said of the action on Duke.

Here are SuperBook’s odds (via ESPN):

Duke — 5-1
North Carolina — 6-1
Kentucky — 8-1
Villanova — 8-1
Kansas — 8-1
Gonzaga — 10-1
Louisville — 12-1
Arizona — 12-1
UCLA — 12-1

And here’s Bovada:

Duke +650
North Carolina +650
Kansas +750
Villanova +750
Gonzaga +850
Arizona +900
Kentucky +1000
UCLA — +1200
Louisville +1600

So what’s with the Duke love? Well some of it probably has to do with the brand name, which always inspires some confidence regardless of how good the team actually is.

But more than that, Duke seems to be peaking at the right time, with a team that looks absolutely stacked on paper.

All season, Duke has flashed the tantalizing potential of a roster loaded with big names. The Blue Devils have breakout star Luke Kennard, talented problem child Gryason Allen, star freshman Jayson Tatum, veteran Amile Jefferson and top recruits Frank Jackson and Harry Giles.

As the Blue Devils stuttered this season—including during the last two weeks of the regular season, when they lost two of three—it seemed maybe all that talent would never come together. Then the Blue Devils won the ACC Tournament, beating Louisville, North Carolina and Notre Dame, and it became easy to believe in that potential.

Is it wise to bet on Duke based on a good week, disregarding the months of inconsistency? We’ll find out soon.

It’s worth noting that not every sportsbook likes Duke. Per ESPN, William Hill lists North Carolina as the favorite, while MGM favors Kansas. Still, the Blue Devils clearly have a lot of believers in Vegas.


About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.