Tennessee vs Florida Atlantic Odds, Picks, Prediction | Bet the Owls?
Tyler Schank/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Brandon Weatherspoon of the FAU Owls.
Tennessee vs Florida Atlantic Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
After three days off, the men’s NCAA Tournament returns on Thursday night in the world’s most famous arena — Madison Square Garden.
Most brackets had Purdue meeting Duke in the Sweet 16 here, but Fairleigh Dickinson’s stunning upset of Purdue in the first round opened the door for chaos in the East Region.
Florida Atlantic beat Memphis in the final seconds and then held off a late charge from FDU to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history.
The Owls will meet Tennessee, which handled Louisiana and then bullied Duke in the second round to pull the minor upset in the betting markets, despite the Volunteers entering the tournament as the better seed.
Tennessee is now the favorite to make the Final Four from this region and is a 5.5-point favorite in the second game in Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. The winner of this game will face Michigan State or Kansas State in the Elite 8 on Saturday.
The Volunteers went from a popular fade team entering the tournament to a Final Four favorite off of one victory against Duke. Has the market adjusted too far toward the Volunteers? Florida Atlantic matches up decently well to stay competitive with the still offensively-challenged Volunteers.
The market and public sentiment sure has swung on Tennessee after one result against Duke.
The Volunteers were written off for dead when the bracket came out despite a favorable matchup against Louisiana and a potential duel against an overvalued Duke team in the second round.
Tennessee’s offense had a hot shooting night against the Blue Devils — a defense that was very good but doesn’t apply much ball pressure at all to force turnovers and expose Tennessee’s lack of a true point guard since losing Zakai Zeigler for the season in February.
One result has now swung Tennessee into a sure-fire Final Four favorite from this region, but the offensive flaws still exist for Tennessee.
The market steamed hard against the Vols in the first two rounds — Tennessee opened -14 against Louisiana and closed -10.5. In Round 2, it opened as a two-point dog to Duke and closed +3.5 despite better underlying metrics all season.
Now the market has gone the other way with the Vols as 5.5-point favorites against an FAU team that both Bart Torvik and KenPom project as a 4-5 point spread.
We’re about to see how good this Tennessee 3-point defense really is. Neither Louisiana nor Duke took or efficiently made a lot of 3s this season. Both offenses were interior focused.
That’s not true for FAU, which made 36.7% of its 3s and shot them at a top-50 attempt rate in the country.
The Volunteers’ defense is elite, but the 26.7% allowed on 3s this year is a product of a bunch of terrible shooting teams in the SEC and two friendly matchups in the NCAA tournament. No defense in America has allowed a lower PPP on unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers this season.
There’s regression looming for this perimeter defense.
Because of Fairleigh Dickinson’s upset and Princeton’s march to the Sweet 16, the Owls are flying under the radar as the true Cinderella story of the 2023 season and tournament.
Head coach Dusty May said he doesn’t view the Owls as a true Cinderella because they’ve been excellent all year in a good league, and he’s right.
Florida Atlantic went 18-2 in Conference USA, which is rated as the 10th-best league in the nation by average KenPom rating. The league had three top-50 teams in those ratings — only the MWC and AAC could also say that of the non-power six leagues.
The Owls won at Florida in the non-conference and then beat a red-hot Memphis team in the opening round of the tournament.
The major key to their offense is that they do not turn the ball over. Tennessee’s elite defense is excellent at forcing turnovers and it’s a major reason why the Blue Devils were held to a season-low 52 points in the last round.
The Volunteers turned over Louisiana 14 times and Duke 15 times. Both offenses were considerably more careless with the ball than FAU, which is 64th in the country and was first in the C-USA in offensive turnover rate.
The Owls will be able to handle Tennessee’s ball pressure without being overwhelmed or outmatched and giving away cheap possessions.
Florida Atlantic should also be able to keep Tennessee off of the offensive glass, too. The Volunteers have shown all season that they’re not a consistently good first-shot offense. They rank 196th in effective field goal percentage but sustain an OK offense through offensive rebounding.
The Volunteers have the depth and size to crash the offensive glass all night long and rank seventh in offensive rebounding rate. The Owls have depth and defensive rebounding ability — 44th-best in the nation and first in C-USA.
Tennessee vs FAU Betting Pick
Tennessee has been playing at one of the slowest paces in the entire country in the last month, especially since losing Zeigler.
He’s the main engine who looks to push the Vols in transition, and without him, they’re exclusively operating in the half-court. That will shorten the game and allow for fewer possessions.
Given the Volunteers’ struggles in the half-court offensively — 68th in offensive efficiency nationally since losing Zeigler — there’s not enough of a gap between these two teams to warrant this spread.
FAU can stretch the Volunteers’ defense to the perimeter more than most of their recent opponents, and it won’t turn the ball over much against the Volunteers’ pressure defense.
As elite and dominant as the Vols’ defense is, the same offensive flaws make them vulnerable as a favorite laying multiple possessions against a top-25 team.
I’d bet Florida Atlantic at +5 or better.
Pick: FAU +5 or Better
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