NCAA March Madness: Tennessee vs. Duke betting preview, odds and predictions


NCAA March Madness: Tennessee Volunteers vs. Duke Blue Devils betting preview, odds and predictions

In the 4 vs. 5 matchup in the East region of the NCAA Tournament, the Tennessee Volunteers face the Duke Blue Devils with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. All tournament long, VSiN will be providing you with March Madness betting odds, in-depth team analysis and expert college basketball picks. Make us your one-stop shop for all of your betting needs. 

MORE: Check out the public betting splits for every college basketball game on the VSiN betting splits page

How to watch Tennessee vs. Duke

When: Saturday, 2:40 p.m. ET 

Where: Orlando, Florida

Watch: CBS

Odds for Tennessee vs. Duke

Spread: Duke -3

Total: 129.5

(Odds accurate as of Thursday, March 16th at 11:50 p.m. ET)

Real-time betting splits at DraftKings Sportsbook

East Region No. 4 Seed Tennessee Volunteers

Rick Barnes has another impressive team in Knoxville this season, but can he find a way to exorcise his March demons? Barnes’ teams are known for losing earlier than expected, and that’s hard to ignore entering the tournament. If you can look beyond that, there’s a lot to like about this team. Tennessee’s calling card is its stifling defense, which is highlighted by the group’s ability to get out and contest outside jumpers. The problem with the Vols is that this team lacks the ability to generate easy offense. Tennessee also really struggled in a first-round meeting with Louisiana. That’s not a good sign heading into a matchup with the hottest team in basketball. 

East Region No. 5 Seed Duke Blue Devils

Duke got off to a rocky start this season, with youth playing a big role in that. However, the Blue Devils ended up turning it on as the season progressed, and this isn’t a team anybody wants to face now. The Blue Devils were a good team defensively throughout the regular season, but it was their offense that was somewhat lagging behind. However, Duke has now figured it out in every way imaginable. The team just won the ACC Tournament, and it’ll be a dangerous group the rest of the way. Kyle Filipowski is a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses, as he’s a seven-footer that can score from all over the floor. He and Dereck Lively II also make up a tremendous defensive combination for the Blue Devils. And Tyrese Proctor has taken his game to another level in recent weeks. Duke just whooped Oral Roberts in the first round, and that’s a team that a lot of people were high on entering March Madness. 

Tennessee vs. Duke matchup analysis

The Blue Devils only being a No. 5 looks like one of the bigger mistakes the committee made. Duke underperformed early in the regular season, but not many teams were better down the stretch.

Duke was scorching hot entering the tournament, as Jon Scheyer’s team won the ACC Tournament and has been the 10th-ranked team in the nation in Bart Torvik’s power ratings since January 15th. The Blue Devils are legitimately playing like a contender now, and they ran Oral Roberts off the floor in their first-round matchup. A lot of people picked the Golden Eagles to win that game, but the Blue Devils sent a message that they’re on another level in that one.

While Duke looked tremendous in its first taste of March Madness action, Tennessee really struggled to put a mediocre Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns team away. Louisiana made a ferocious comeback late in the game, and Tennessee is now looking extremely vulnerable heading into this meeting with Duke.

Of course, it’s important not to overreact to one game from each of these teams, but that’s not exactly the reason that Duke looks like it should be getting a little more love from the oddsmakers. Since January 15th, the Blue Devils are seventh in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, and that makes it hard to believe the Volunteers will be able to consistently create offense in this one. While Tennessee is second in the nation in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric this season, Rick Barnes’ team is just 62nd in adjusted offense. And the Vols have been lacking a go-to scorer all year long.

Santiago Vescovi, Olivier Nkamhoua, Josiah-Jordan James, Julian Phillips and Tyreke Key all averaged at least 8.0 points per game for Tennessee this season. However, nobody on this team averaged at least 15.0 points per game, and it’s hard to come away with wins in close games when you don’t have a player you can rely on to score in isolation.

Duke doesn’t have a can’t-miss scoring prospect on this year’s team, but Kyle Filipowski is probably the best offensive player on either one of these teams. And Jeremy Roach is coming off a great tournament run last year, so we’ve seen him play at a high level in March. Considering he’s not even the best guard the Blue Devils have, that should prove to you that Duke is the more talented team between these two.

If all of that isn’t enough, there’s also the fact that Barnes’ teams consistently underperform in March. And from the looks of that first performance, it doesn’t exactly look like that’s set to change anytime soon.

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