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2-seeded Duke (not UNC, Villanova or Kansas) favored to win NCAA title

If they can keep winning, the Blue Devils will likely face No. 1 Villanova in the Elite Eight.

By Doug G. Ware
The Duke Blue Devils were listed as the odds-on favorite to win the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year, despite owning a 2-seed in the bracket. The Durham, N.C., school last won the national title in 2015. File Photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/1a5cad01b4b987c681c3af36baf5b860/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
The Duke Blue Devils were listed as the odds-on favorite to win the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament this year, despite owning a 2-seed in the bracket. The Durham, N.C., school last won the national title in 2015. File Photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI | License Photo

March 12 (UPI) -- Although the Duke Blue Devils had an up-and-down regular season -- and were not listed Sunday among the top four teams in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament -- the prominent North Carolina school is the odds-on favorite to win the national title this year.

After the bracket was unveiled Sunday, the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook listed Duke as the most likely of all 68 tournament teams to win their final game. The Blue Devils' title odds opened at 5/1.

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North Carolina, which is a No. 1-seed, has the second best odds (6/1), followed by Kentucky (8/1), defending champion Villanova (8/1), Kansas (8/1), Gonzaga (10/1), Louisville (12/1), Arizona (12/1) and UCLA (12/1).

Some experts projected ACC champion Duke (27-8) as a No. 1-seed in the tournament, but they fell to the 2-line when the bracket was revealed.

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The Blue Devils struggled with consistency at times this season, even losing once to rival North Carolina State -- which won only four league games and fired its head coach this year -- in January.

Another distraction for the team has been its star guard Grayson Allen, who was disciplined again this season for tripping an opposing player -- the third time he'd done so in 2016.

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Duke regained a lot of credibility, though, in last week's ACC Tournament -- where, as a 5-seed, they won four games in four days to win the league trophy. Along the way, the Blue Devils topped Louisville, North Carolina and Notre Dame, all highly-seeded NCAA Tournament teams.

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The Durham, N.C., school will play its first round game against 15-seed Troy (22-14) on Thursday, and would face the winner of (7) South Carolina and (10) Marquette on Saturday. A second round win would likely set up a game with third-seeded Baylor or No. 6 SMU in the Sweet 16, and then possibly top-ranked Villanova in the Elite Eight.

The five-time champion Blue Devils last won the national title in 2015 as a No. 1 seed, defeating Robert Morris, San Diego State, Utah, Gonzaga, Michigan State and, finally, Wisconsin. However, Duke has also suffered two shocking first-round exits in recent years (2012, 2014) to 15th-seeded Lehigh and 14th-seeded Mercer.

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