Both No. 4 seed Tennessee and No. 5 seed Duke survived first-round tests against upset-minded mid-majors on the first day of the NCAA Tournament.
Now they’ll face off Saturday in arguably the best game of the second round – a heavyweight clash that could have major implications in the wide-open East Region.
Here’s how we’re betting Saturday’s contest, which tips off at 2:40 p.m. Eastern on CBS.
Duke vs. Tennessee pick
Duke vs. Tennessee prediction and analysis
How you bet one of the most compelling matchups of the second round comes down to a matter of philosophy: do you trust the numbers, or do you trust your eyes?
If you go by advanced metrics, Tennessee is the clear pick here.
The Volunteers rank eighth in adjusted efficiency margin per KenPom, which is also predicting a 64-61 win for Saturday’s underdogs.
That’s a unique value opportunity that you rarely see in college basketball, let alone on a stage like this one.
It all starts on the defensive end for Tennessee, which ranks first in opponent 3-point percentage (26.4%), ninth in 2-point percentage (44.5%) and second in overall efficiency (87.4).
Rick Barnes’ group also forces turnovers at a high rate (22.2%), and though this offense has struggled to make shots all year, it still ranks second in assist rate (66.4%) and sixth in offensive rebound rate (36.5%).
If you’re going by the eye test, though? It’s hard not to back favored Duke, which looks like a legitimate threat to win it all.
The Blue Devils looked virtually unstoppable in Thursday’s 23-point win over surging mid-major Oral Roberts, which was totally flummoxed by Duke’s interior defense – Dereck Lively (six blocks) was everywhere – and elite shot-making from junior guard Jeremy Roach (23 points) and red-hot freshman Dariq Whitehead (13).
It felt like the fully realized version of a team that entered the season with high expectations before injuries slowed momentum for Jon Scheyer in his first year.
That momentum has clearly returned for Duke, which boasts the nation’s third-longest win streak (10 games) and owns a stellar 18-1 record with a fully healthy rotation.
In reality, the numbers probably favor Duke in this matchup, too.
Since their lengthy win streak began on Feb. 14, the Blue Devils rank fourth in T-Rank’s power rating with top-15 efficiency on both ends.
Get the lowdown on the Best USA Sports Betting Sites and Apps
Meanwhile, Tennessee has lost seven of its last 13 games and ranks outside of the top 30 in power rating over that stretch.
The X-factor here is the injury to point guard Zakai Zeigler, who led the Vols in assists (5.4) and steals (2.0) and ranked second in points (10.7) before a season-ending injury in late February.
His team is just 2-2 since and committed 16 turnovers in Thursday’s 3-point win over Louisiana – tied for its second-most in a game this season.
Tennessee can’t afford to waste possessions with an offense that already struggles to score, especially with Lively patrolling the paint for Duke’s suddenly elite defense.
This could be the game when the Blue Devils’ inexperience or subpar strength of competition rear their ugly heads, but this team is playing too well to fade against a flawed foe.
Duke vs. Tennessee odds (via BetMGM)
- Duke -3.5 (-110), moneyline -175
- Tennessee +3.5 (-110), moneyline +145
- O/U 128.5 (under -115)
#Duke #Tennessee #pick #March #Madness #prediction #odds #bets