Duke is returning to the NCAA Tournament, punching its ticket for a second straight season to begin Jon Scheyer’s tenure with the Blue Devils.

The path in this year’s bracket will not be an easy one with Duke drawing a 4-seed in the South Region. That puts the Blue Devils in the same bracket that includes 1-seed Houston, 2-seed Marquette and 3-seed Kentucky.

Houston unsurprisingly is given the best odds to reach the Final Four from that group with ESPN Bet putting the Cougars at +140 to win the South Region. However, Duke is next in line at +400 with Marquette (+500) and Kentucky (+600) trailing a bit. Fans can track all the latest odds and trends with SDS’s North Carolina sports betting links and apps.

As for the start of the tournament, Duke draws 13-seed Vermont with the Blue Devils opening -11.5 against the Catamounts. However, Vermont has produced some spirited results in March, lending a note of caution for Duke.

Here are the key things to know for the matchup:

March Madness regulars

Vermont has grown accustomed to playing in March with a 3rd straight season of the outright America East title and America East Tournament title. The Catamounts are winless in their last 2 trips to the Big Dance, but that is not from a lack of effort.

In the 2022 NCAA Tournament, Vermont went toe-to-toe with Arkansas as a 13-seed before eventually falling 75-71. However, the program does have one signature upset in their history.

During the 2005 NCAA Tournament, Vermont stunned Syracuse 60-57 as a 13-seed before falling to Michigan State in the second round. We’ll see if the Catamounts have more magic in store against Duke, but they have the kind of experience in March that other mid-majors may lack.

Balanced offensive depth

Unlike most teams, Vermont does not have one key scorer. The Catamounts do not have a single player averaging more than 13 points, but they do have 7 players averaging 7.6+ points per game.

Sophomore guard TJ Long is the team’s leading scorer at 12.2 points, and he also averages 2.3 made 3-pointers while shooting 37% from deep. A trio of other players make at least 1 3-point field goal per game.

A true testament to Vermont’s balance, 3 players average at least 2 assists per game and 7 players average at least 1 assist. Without a single scorer to hone in on, Vermont has the depth and talent to attack teams in a variety of ways.

A size mismatch to exploit

An area that Duke does have a distinct advantage comes in the size department with none of Vermont’s main contributors measuring above 6-foot-8. Matt Veretto checks in at 6-foot-8 as Vermont’s 4th-leading scorer, but the team’s leading rebounder is 6-foot-4 guard Shamir Bogues.

Kyle Filipowski remains Duke’s leading scorer, and the 7-footer will want to get off to a strong start if the Blue Devils are to put together a run through the bracket. Mark Mitchell can also provide some mismatches in an area Duke should try to take advantage of against the smaller Catamounts.