Thursday’s Texas Tech-Duke Sweet 16 game will be a matchup between KenPom’s highest-ranked team in adjusted defensive efficiency and the third-ranked team in adjusted offensive efficiency. When people talk about force against force, that’s the type of game they’re talking about.
At this point in the tournament, these forces have yet to let either team down. Texas Tech has allowed an average of just 57.5 points on under 40 percent shooting in two games. Duke averaged 81.5 points on 50+ percent shooting in its two games.
Something has to give.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 3 Texas Tech
Spread: Texas Tech -1.5 (-102)
Money line: Duke (-105), Texas Tech (-115)
Total points: 137.5
(Quote via Tipico on 03/23/22)
Lowest-ranked Texas Tech is preferred over Duke by 1.5 points, and that’s likely because a good defense is easier to trust than a good offense. The effort and desire on the defensive side of the ball doesn’t cool off the way shooting does, even for the best scoring teams — especially against a team that will make things tougher, like Texas Tech. For that reason, I pick the Red Raiders to win and cover what amounts to a pick ’em. But there is more than that.
Texas Tech players have a full year of average experience on Duke’s cast of mostly freshmen and sophomores in the lead. Three of the Blue Devils’ five top scorers are freshmen, including top scorer Paolo Banchero. The two exceptions are junior Wendell Moore and second Mark Williams, and Moore is the only top class member to play significant minutes.
The guys at Duke are incredibly talented, as evidenced by many of their NBA draft actions. But the further we get into the tournament, the more I trust the upper classes to stay balanced in the big squares and better impose their will. Texas Tech’s rotation is full of only seniors, with a few juniors dotted around. And while they don’t get the ball in the cup at the same rate as Duke or shoot the 3-pointer well, they don’t exactly have a hard to score. Texas Tech ranks 34th in the nation in field goal percentage, led by the duo of Bryson Williams and Kevin Obanor.
However, while I expect Texas Tech to keep Duke under 80 points on average for the season, I still think these teams are collectively doing enough to push the total to over 137.5 points. Only two of the four games these teams have played collectively in the tournament have exceeded their point tally, but three of them have eclipsed that number.