Duke vs. Tennessee 2023 March Madness Second Round Betting Preview: Blue Devils Keep Rolling In Defensive Battle

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Jeremy Roach #3 of Duke signals against Oral Roberts during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on March 16, 2023. Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images/AFP

Top NCAAB Pick for Today

NCAAB Pick: Duke ML (-150) at Bookmaker (visit our Bookmaker Review)

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Duke ML (-150)
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Picks Summary:

  • Duke ML (-150)
  • Duke vs. Tennessee – Under 128.5 (-110)

The marquee matchup in NCAA Tournament second-round action Saturday is an East Region game between No. 5 Duke and No. 4 Tennessee from Orlando.

Which side of the top-rated online books is the smart lean (we are using the moneyline for this one) as your top NCAAB pick? We also have a total play. 

Remember, fans from the Tobacco Road area who want to wager on this game should check out our top-rated North Carolina betting sites.

Duke Blue Devils vs. Tennessee Volunteers 

Saturday, March 18, 2023 – 02:40 PM EDT at Amway Center 

The first East Region game in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday features fifth-seeded Duke from the ACC against No. 4 Tennessee of the SEC from Orlando.

CBS has the telecast. If chalk held, the winner would face No. 1 seed Purdue in the Sweet 16, but as we saw in Thursday’s first-round action, chalk rarely holds in the Big Dance

It’s the first meeting between the Blue Devils and Vols since November 2011 and the Dukies lead the all-time series 8-7. Duke hasn’t played an SEC team this season, and Tennessee hasn’t faced an ACC club.

Blue Devils Are Rolling 

The hottest team in the nation entering the NCAA Tournament was East No. 12 seed Oral Roberts, which ran the table in the Summit League regular season and conference tournament and had won 17 straight games, but the Golden Eagles were simply no match in the first round for Duke, which prevailed 74-51 for its 10th straight win. 

You probably think offense when you think Duke – Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, JJ Redick, Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, etc., but this year’s team coached by Jon Scheyer, a pretty good offensive player himself back in the day at Duke, is stellar defensively.  

Oral Roberts’ 51 total points were 33.2 below its season average entering Thursday’s game. Duke has now held opponents below their season scoring average 31 times and gone 27-4 in those. The 51 points allowed Thursday were the fewest by Duke since beating San Diego State, 68-49, in a second-round game in 2015. 

Roach Shines Against ORU, Vols Next

Jeremy Roach, the only returning starter from last season’s Final Four team and Mike Krzyzewski’s final club, had a career-high-tying high of 23 points vs. ORU. He also scored 23 in Duke’s ACC Tournament title game win over Virginia. Roach was the only starter in double digits Thursday as freshman star Kyle Filipowski had a rough game with just six points but did chip in nine rebounds and four steals. He only played 26 minutes in the blowout.  

Duke outrebounded Oral Roberts, 46-32, the 29th time this season with the rebounding advantage (25-4 in those games). The Blue Devils have played 11 straight games with their full complement of scholarship players available and are 10-1 in those – that loss was in overtime at Virginia on Feb. 11 and then the Blue Devils got payback for that in the ACC title game. Duke has played 20 games all season with its full complement available and is 19-1 in those games.  

Roach, for example, missed four regular-season games. Freshman Dariq Whitehead also missed four. He looked good Thursday with 13 points and four rebounds off the bench. Another freshman, Dereck Lively II, had game highs for rebounds (12) and blocked shots (six), as Lively set the Duke freshman record for blocks in an NCAA Tournament game. He missed two regular-season games. 

Blue Blood Team Back on Track?

Scheyer and Vic Bubas, who led Duke to the Elite Eight in 1960, are the only head coaches in school history to win an NCAA Tournament game in their first season. The Blue Devils improved to 119-39 all-time in the Big Dance and 31-3 in first-round games. They are 3-1 as the No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

I think Duke wins the East Region and thought that before Thursday as well. The Blue Devils are (+400) to do so at BMR’s top-rated books – grab that now.  

  • The Blue Devils are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games overall. 
  • The Blue Devils are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games following an ATS win. 
  • The Blue Devils are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 Saturday games. 
  • The under is 9-3-1 in Blue Devils last 13 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600. 

Vols Clearly Miss Zeigler 

Any shot Tennessee had of reaching the Final Four probably disappeared when the team’s heart and soul, starting point guard Zakai Zeigler, tore his ACL on Feb. 28 against Arkansas. The sophomore averaged 10.7 points, 5.4 assists, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game. Zakai is a very good defender on a defensive-oriented team. He was named second-team All-SEC and ranked second in the conference in assist/turnover ratio with a 2.92 mark. 

Since he went down, UT is only 2-2 and it slogged through a 58-55 win over No. 13 seed Louisiana on Thursday, not coming close to covering the 11-point spread on the NCAAB odds. The Vols were up 18 early in the second half and then perhaps started looking forward to this game as Louisiana rallied.  

Tyreke Key, a graduate transfer from Indiana State playing in his first career NCAA Tournament game, led the Vols with 12 points in 31 minutes — tied for his most minutes played since December. Jahmai Mashack was the only other Vol in double figures, scoring 11 points.  

“Jahmai has been a big part certainly since even before Zakai (Zeigler) went out,” Coach Rick Barnes said. “He found his niche and he’s a guy that we know that can guard people. He’s not afraid to go out and guard anybody.”  

Tennessee to Lean on D

Santiago Vescovi, Tennessee’s leading scorer, was held to three points as he played just seven minutes in the first half due to foul trouble. For the fifth time this season, the Vols wore their “Tennessee Classic” uniforms and improved to 5-0. UT is now 5-4 in the NCAA Tournament under Barnes and 24-25 all-time as a program. The Vols will be looking to advance to the Sweet 16 for the ninth time in program history. 

Obviously, there’s no such thing as a lock, but I’d be very surprised if UT can win this game without Zeigler. Even with him, the Vols aren’t as talented as Duke. We will pay a bit more for the moneyline to avoid some late bad beat or a push on 3.  

This might be the lowest-scoring game of Round 2 as well. Tennessee entered the Dance leading the nation in three-point defense (.262) while ranking second in field-goal defense (.369) and third in scoring defense (58.0 ppg). We told you above how good Duke has been defensively.  

  • The Volunteers are 4-9 ATS in their last 13 games overall. 
  • The Volunteers are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games vs. a team with a winning straight-up record. 
  • The Volunteers are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games following a straight-up win. 
  • The under is 4-1 in the Volunteers’ last 5 neutral site games. 

NCAAB Pick: Duke vs. Tennessee – Under 128.5 (-110) at Bookmaker 

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Under 128.5 (-110)
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