The East Region will begin to host its second round of play Saturday, and one of the more interesting matchups will pit the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils (27-8) against the No. 4 Tennessee Volunteers (24-10). This game will be played at the Amway Center, with tipoff scheduled for 2:40 pm ET.
Despite being the lower seed, the Blue Devils are the favorites in this one. They are -164 to win, while the Volunteers’ moneyline sits at +136. The spread features Tennessee +3.5 (-114), and the over/under for total points is 128.5.
Duke Is Red Hot
After winning the ACC Tournament and the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Duke Blue Devils come into this one on a 10-game winning streak. In their opener, they took down No. 12 Oral Roberts 74-51, and they will look to stay hot as they take on the Volunteers.
In the win over Oral Roberts, Jeremy Roach led all scorers with 23 points. He also added two rebounds and three assists.
Dariq Whitehead was the only other player who scored in double digits with 13 points. Dereck Lively II also had a big game. He only scored four points, but he added 12 rebounds.
The Blue Devils come into this one ranked 124th in the nation in scoring, averaging 72.6 points per game. On the defensive end, they rank 24th overall, allowing opponents an average of just 63.6 points.
Volunteers Will Have To Play Better Than Opener
At this point in the season, the goal for all teams is to win and move on, regardless of how “pretty” the win is. While Tennessee won in their opener 58-55 over No. 13 LA-Lafayette, they are going to have to play significantly better to beat a really strong Duke team.
In the opening win, Tyreke Key (12 points, four rebounds) and Jahmai Mashack (11 points, three assists) led the way in scoring. Their leading scorer this season, Santiago Vescovi, managed just three points on the night.
The Volunteers certainly struggle on the offensive side. They rank 161st overall, averaging 71.4 points per game, but they have been averaging just 66.3 over their last three game, including the 58 they scored in their last contest. Part of the issue is the absence of Zakai Zeigler (10.7 points, 5.4 assists), who is out with a torn ACL.
Tennessee remains elite on the defensive end. They rank third overall, allowing opponents an average of 57.9 points per game (63 in their last three).
Take Duke To Win Straight Up
Not only is Duke undefeated in their last 10 games, but they are 5-0 against the spread in their last five contests. Additionally, they are 5-0 in their last five against SEC opponents and 8-0 against the spread in their last eight March matchups.
As for Tennessee, they are 4-2 in their last six games, but they are just 4-9 against the spread in their last 13 contests. They are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games in March.
This one is all about momentum. While Tennessee’s defense remains solid, they are just struggling to score right now. With a better offense and a defense that can go toe-to-toe with the Vols, the Duke Blue Devils should win this one outright.
Don’t hesitate to take them covering the spread, but at the bare minimum, there is a lot of value in taking Duke to win this one straight up (-164).