Tennessee will take on Duke on Saturday in Orlando. Photo via Tennessee Athletics.
We’re officially less than 24 hours away from four-seed Tennessee taking on five-seed Duke in the 2023 NCAA Tournament’s second round of action.
Tennessee reached the second round of the East Region after surviving a ferocious comeback from 13-seed Louisiana on Thursday night in the opener. The Vols won that game by a score of 58-55. Duke, on the other hand, reached the second round by taking down 12-seed Oral Roberts handily.
Tennessee and Duke will square off at 2:40 p.m. ET on Saturday afternoon in Orlando’s Amway Center.
Check out RTI’s game predictions for the win-or-go-home contest below.
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Me on Wednesday’s Louisiana game predictions: “We’ll cross the potential Round 2 bridge when it comes, right?”
Me now: “Well, here’s the bridge.”
Talk about a marquee matchup in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Two marquee athletic programs across not just the south, but the entire country as a whole. Two instantly recognizable brands going head-to-head on the court with a coveted spot in the Sweet 16 – and New York City’s Madison Square Garden – on the line.
It’s fascinating that Tennessee was victorious with Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi combining for just 11 points in the win over Louisiana. Tennessee found some help thanks to role players such as Tyreke Key and Jahmai Mashack throughout the game. But with a matchup against Duke on the horizon, Tennessee needs their stars to be stars, too. Despite some solid takeaways in the Louisiana game, Tennessee is going to have to be more productive offensively to take down Duke, truly one of the hottest teams in the country at the moment.
Duke and Tennessee will combine for size on the court. Not only does Duke have the tallest team on average in the tournament, but Duke head coach Jon Scheyer also acknowledged that due to Tennessee’s unfortunate injury to Zakai Zeigler, the Vols are a much bigger team in his absence. Where Tennessee’s athleticism and size were an advantage over Louisiana, I see that being much more evenly matched against the Blue Devils.
I’m picking Duke for this game. Just a gut feeling, really. Tennessee has a lot of fight in them, and that’s what March is about. Could the Vols win against Duke? Certainly. Tennessee has a long, physical defense and a few players that can get hot shooting the ball. Look at me, hedging my bets. Either way, I see Duke winning this game more often than I see Tennessee winning. Should be a fun one in the Orlando Magic’s arena on Saturday afternoon. Ryan and I will be headed back to Knoxville on Sunday with plenty to talk about no matter the outcome.
Prediction: Duke 68, Tennessee 63
Tennessee is not a popular pick in its Round of 32 matchup against Duke. In fact, it would be hard to find a lower-seeded team viewed as more of a favorite than the Blue Devils are in this matchup. The betting public and pundits alike view Duke as the odds on favorite in this game. And for good reason.
Duke is playing as well as any team in the country entering this game, winning its last 10 games while Tennessee has limped down the stretch of the season even before losing point guard Zakai Zeigler to a season-ending injury. But Tennessee is plenty capable of winning this game. They’ve beaten some of the nation’s top teams, even Kansas on a neutral floor. Being completely discounted isn’t going to hurt the Vols either.
Two keys I’ll be following in this game. Duke’s interior defense is elite which means we’ve reached the point in the season where Tennessee has to shoot the ball well from the three-point line to win. Making shots win you games in March. The Vols haven’t been great there this season and didn’t hit shots against Louisiana. Secondly, these are two of the 10 best offensive rebounding teams in the country. This game will largely be decided by which team controls the glass.
Prediction: Duke 72, Tennessee 64