BYU or Duquesne? How to pick 6 vs. 11 matchup in 2024 March Madness bracket

BYU will face Duquesne in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, and the matchup couldn’t be more fascinating.

The Cougars haven’t advanced past the first round since 2011, but that pales in comparison to the Dukes snapping what was a 47-year tournament drought. What happens when a team from Utah that lives and dies by the three meets a team from Pittsburgh that finished sixth in the Atlantic 10 Conference? It’s certainly not the easiest game to predict.

BYU notched wins over Kansas and Baylor in its first season in the Big 12, cruising to a tournament bid. However, despite being slotted 17th on the selection committee’s seed list, the Cougars had to settle for a No. 6 seed. Why? One factor could be the fact that the team can’t play on Sunday, which forces the committee to squeeze them into a Thursday-Saturday pod by any means necessary.

Duquesne, on the other hand, wasn’t in tournament contention until it rallied to win the Atlantic 10. The Dukes started 0-5 in conference play but are walking proof that March can bring out the absolute best in a team. Will the ride continue into the weekend for Duquesne?

Here’s a complete guide to Thursday’s matchup between BYU and Duquesne, including odds, picks and key metrics to know.

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BYU vs. Duquesne odds

Duquesne’s run through the Atlantic 10 was tremendous, but oddsmakers like BYU’s chances in the first round.

Early odds have the Cougars as steady 7.5-point favorites entering Thursday’s matchup, according to odds from BetMGM.

  • Odds: BYU (-7.5)
  • Date: Thursday, March 21
  • Time: 12:40 p.m.
  • TV: TruTV
  • Arena: CHI Health Center, Omaha, Neb.

BYU (22-9, 10-8 in Big 12)

BYU was a metrics darling early in the season despite not making the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two years. The Cougars largely proved the metrics right with an impressive debut season in a loaded Big 12.

One of the deepest teams in the conference, BYU had a whopping seven players average at least nine points per game, but none over 14. The Cougars played true team basketball, and they did it by assailing opposing defenses with 3-pointers.

BYU initially struggled on the road in the Big 12 but managed a massive road win over Kansas late in the regular season to cement their status as a surefire single-digit seed.

The Cougars are led by coach Mark Pope, who is in his fifth season in Provo. Pope has a 110-51 record at BYU, with four seasons of at least 20 wins. The Cougars have been ranked at one point in four of his five seasons. Pope previously coached at Utah Valley before joining BYU.

  • NET ranking: 13
  • KenPom ranking: 16
  • Quad 1 record: 6-8
  • Quad 2 record: 5-2
  • Quad 3 record: 4-0
  • Quad 4 record: 8-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 11th
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 48th

Key players

Jaxson Robinson (6-7, 193-pound senior guard)

13.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists

Fousseyni Traore (6-6, 254-pound junior forward)

10.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists

Spencer Johnson (6-5, 175-pound senior guard)

10.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists

MORE: Watch 2024 NCAA Tournament games live with Sling

Duquesne (24-11, 10-8 in A-10)

It’s been 47 years since Duquesne last played in an NCAA Tournament game, but the Dukes earned a bid with a stellar Atlantic 10 Tournament run. Richmond upset Iowa after stealing a bid by winning the A-10 in 2022. Can Duquesne similarly keep the momentum going into Thursday?

The Dukes rely on defense, which was evident in their A-10 title game victory over VCU. It can be hard to trust Duquesne’s shot-making ability, but this team is top 100 in opponent field goal percentage and top 40 in opponent points per game. That makes for an intriguing matchup with a BYU offense that can catch fire at any moment.

Duquesne is led by coach Keith Dambrot, who is in his seventh season in Pittsburgh. Dambrot, who was LeBron James’ high school coach for two years, last reached the NCAAA Tournament in 2013 with Akron. He took the Duquesne job in 2017 as a tribute to his father, who played for the Dukes from 1950-54.

Dambrot never had a losing season at Akron and has three seasons of at least 20 wins at Duquesne, including a turnaround from 6-24 in 2021-22 to 20-13 in 2022-23. 

  • NET ranking: 83
  • KenPom ranking: 86
  • Quad 1 record: 2-3
  • Quad 2 record: 5-5
  • Quad 3 record: 5-3
  • Quad 4 record: 10-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 11th
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 48th

Key players

Jimmy Clark III (6-3, 175-pound senior guard)

15.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists

Dae Dae Grant (6-2, 180-pound senior guard)

16.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists

Fousseyni Drame (6-7, 192-pound senior forward)

6.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.7 steals

MORE: Biggest March Madness snubs

BYU vs. Duquesne prediction

Duquesne’s run has been one of a few unbelievable journeys already this March, but let’s be realistic: The Dukes were badly over-seeded by the committee. Duquesne’s resume is arguably closer to a 13-seed than an 11-seed, and it’s possible the committee just put the Dukes where they expected VCU to fall had the A-10 title game gone the other direction.

While Duquesne has a terrific backcourt, that’s about it for Dambrot’s offense. Offensive options are limited in the frontcourt, putting all of the pressure squarely on the shoulders of Jimmy Clark III and Dae Dae Grant.

While BYU’s defense is suspect, chances are Duquesne just won’t be able to keep up with the Cougars. There is real concern about how far BYU can go given they live and die by the three, but there are so many options for Pope and enough margin for error against a sluggish Duquesne offense that it’s hard to pick against the Cougars in this spot.

BYU clearly benefited from facing such a loaded Big 12 schedule as the season went on, going from a team that couldn’t win on the road to a team that walked into Allen Fieldhouse and beat Kansas. The Cougars are also rife with experience, which is an area Duquesne would have an advantage over most teams. 

The best-case scenario for Duquesne is putting BYU in an early hole because the Cougars can’t figure out the Dukes’ impressive defense. The Dukes were barely able to hold on after sticking VCU in an early hole. BYU is an entirely different challenge, and it’s hard to imagine Duquesne limiting such a wide range of scorers for 40 minutes. BYU is the pick to advance to the second round.

History of 6 vs. 11 matchups in NCAA Tournament

In each of the last 18 tournaments, at least one 11-seed has upset a 6-seed.

Recent history had not been kind to 6-seeds before 2023, but only one 11-seed pulled off the upset last year with Pitt shutting down Iowa State.

Many 6 vs. 11 games are nearly toss-ups, but it’s fair to say BYU vs. Duquesne is not. Duquesne is a legitimate underdog, perhaps more than any other 11-seed, and it would be a bit of a surprise to see the Dukes walk away with the win. As past tournaments have proven, that doesn’t make it impossible by any stretch.

Below is a breakdown of the wins 11-seeds have enjoyed upsets over 6-seeds over the last 10 tournaments.

Year Result
2023 Pittsburgh 59, Iowa State 41
2022 Michigan 75, Colorado State 63
  Notre Dame 78, Alabama 64
  Iowa State 59, LSU 54
2021 UCLA 73, BYU 62
  Syracuse 78, San Diego State 62
2019 Ohio State 62, Iowa State 59
2018 Loyola Chicago 64, Miami (Fla.) 62
  Syracuse 57, TCU 52
2017 Rhode Island 84, Creighton 72
  USC 66, SMU 65
  Xavier 76, Maryland 65
2016 Northern Iowa 75, Texas 72
  Gonzaga 68, Seton Hall 52
  Wichita State 65, Arizona 55
2015 Dayton 66, Providence 53
  UCLA 60, SMU 59
2014 Tennessee 86, UMass 57
  Dayton 60, Ohio State 59
2013 Minnesota 83, UCLA 63


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