Florida Atlantic vs Tennessee Under 131 (-110)
Tennessee is one of the most formidable defensive teams in the nation and they have stepped up in a big way in the tournament allowing 55 and 52 points to reach the Sweet 16, including a convincing win over favored Duke on Saturday. Florida Atlantic is a surprise Sweet 16 squad getting a fortunate narrow win over Memphis in the opener before surviving a tense game with #16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson Sunday. That game reached 148 points, but the Owls will go from facing the nation’s #350 defense to facing the #1 defense. The Round of 32 win for FAU also featured only 57 points at halftime before an unusual pace late in the second half including 47 points in the final 10 minutes with several late 3-point makes and free throws added. Getting to 66 against Memphis required a third of those points coming in the final 10 minutes of a wild game with the Owls making eight 3-point shots and catching a few big turnover breaks. Florida Atlantic has put up triple-digits a few times this season but was held to 50 and 66 points against North Texas, the top defense in Conference USA and the closest thing the Owls have seen to Tennessee’s defense. While known for its offense, FAU has shown it can compete defensively as well, 15th nationally in effective field goal rate against this season while allowing an average of 57 points per game in the three-game Conference USA tournament run. The total in Duke/Tennessee was several points lower than this number and reached only 117 points and given the limitations of the Tennessee offense as it adjusts to the absence of Zakai Zeigler another slower pace game is very likely. Duke’s defense was also downgraded without Mark Mitchell in the Round of 32 and Tennessee made nine 3-point shots for 43 percent in that game, well above the team’s 32 percent average in SEC play. FAU would be a difficult team to prepare for in a quick turnaround but having the long gap between games ahead of the Sweet 16 should allow the Volunteers to work on many specific aspects of Dusty May’s offense and it will be clear that the Vols won’t want to get into a track meet in this pairing. This will be one of the lowest totals of the season in a FAU game, but it will be by far the toughest defensive team the Owls have faced while both teams will face some extra nerves playing in Madison Square Garden as another low-scoring result seems probable Thursday.
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