Sunday Elite 8 Betting Preview: Beard, Brunson, and a Blue Blood Battle

Sunday Elite 8 Betting Preview: Beard, Brunson, and a Blue Blood Battle article feature image
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Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

By the end of Sunday, we will know which four teams will be left standing in San Antonio next weekend. The last two Elite 8 games have a completely different look than Saturday’s pair. The total sum of the four seeds we saw yesterday? 32. Sunday? 7. Three of the teams playing (Villanova, Duke and Kansas) have combined to win won four of the last 10 national titles. We are in for a treat, especially since we don’t have to watch more Syracuse.

Below, we will examine the matchups on both ends of the floor, look at trends, interesting nuggets and sharp action. We will also provide our team’s favorite bets for both Sunday games.

Don’t forget to check back here up until game time for insight into last-minute sharp action, significant line moves and any other betting market info.

Let’s dive in!

All spreads as of Saturday evening


#3 Texas Tech vs. #1 Villanova -6.5 | O/U: 144.5

Boston, MA | 2:20 p.m. ET on CBS

Schematic Analysis

By Jordan Majewski

When Texas Tech has the Ball

Having been schooled by Bob Knight, Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard has great institutional knowledge of motion offense principles. The Red Raider offense can look downright beautiful at times. However, it can also stagnate for stretches, as a result of poor spacing that occurs due to a distinct lack of deep threats (besides freshman guard Jarrett Culver) around alpha scorer/facilitator senior point guard Keenan Evans.

The best way to attack Villanova’s defense is through a dominant post and a steady stream of pick and pops, which force forward Omari Spellman to both defend at the rim and in space outside of the paint. Texas Tech’s offense simply isn’t designed to do either. With the lack of credible Texas Tech perimeter threats, Villanova head coach Jay Wright will feel comfortable switching uber defender Mikal Bridges onto Evans when necessary. Jalen Brunson’s questionable lateral quickness will also unlikely be exposed on the defensive end. This is ultimately a plus matchup for the Villanova defense.

When Villanova has the Ball

Brunson, Nova’s point guard, is the most important player in the country. His presence alone allows Villanova to shred any defensive scheme imaginable. The Wildcats looked a bit shaky against West Virginia’s press at times (particularly Donte DiVincenzo), but Brunson righted the ship, steering Jay Wright’s often 5 out ball screen motion offense into a dominant second half.

At this point we all know the score with Villanova. Every player on the floor can shoot, pass and dribble. The mobility of forward Eric Paschall and Spellman (who was absolutely phenomenal against WVU) makes Nova essentially unguardable against teams that do not possess an athletic and versatile frontcourt. Fortunately for Texas Tech, the Smiths and Justin Gray provide the Red Raiders with that athletic and versatile frontcourt.

However, it’s never that simple against Villanova’s elite offense. Beard employs an extended defense with pack-line principles that swarms to the ball at the point of attack. This is an incredibly efficient defensive scheme against almost any team in the country, but not Villanova. Texas Tech’s swarming defense constantly leaves it vulnerable on the weak side. No team in the country exploits weak-side defenses like Villanova does. In fact, it’s well within the realm of possibility that the Wildcats run the best off-ball action in the history of college basketball. Seriously.

No. 1 Thing I’m Watching For

By Stuckey

Texas Tech nerves

Not only has Texas Tech never appeared in a Final Four in program history, but it has actually never even played for a shot. This marks the first Elite Eight appearance in Red Raider history. Conversely, Villanova will play for its sixth Final Four appearance in school history. What does that mean? Nothing really.

However, what is meaningful is the fact that Brunson, Bridges and Phil Booth were all key contributors during Villanova’s national-title run in 2016. The Wildcats will not be afraid of the moment or the stage. Texas Tech’s response remains a mystery, but having a senior point guard such as Evans will certainly help. We will learn a lot about the nerves and mind-set of the Red Raiders in the first 10 minutes, which will heavily influence my live action.

The Situation

By Wes Reynolds

Villanova shoots 40.5% from three point range, which is the best among all remaining teams in the tournament and ranks ninth in the nation. After making 38 triples in three Big East Tournament games, Nova has followed up with 44 long balls in the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Villanova’s outside shooting “water level” is obviously very high, but these numbers have been ridiculous. Can the Wildcats continue shooting at this high of a clip against a team that ranks third in the country in defensive efficiency ranking? Texas Tech better hope not.

Did You Know?

By Evan Abrams

Villanova was only the 11th team over the last two seasons to shoot 50% or better from the field against West Virginia. The 10 previous teams to do so went a combined 2-8 ATS in the following game, failing to cover the spread by an average of 4.7 points per game.

Getting Trendy

By John Ewing

The over hit in both of Villanova and Texas Tech’s Sweet 16 games. Since 2005, the under is 107-88-3 (55%) in a matchup of two teams both coming off an over game.

Betting Market

By PJ Walsh

Sixty-four percent of tickets and 61% of dollars are laying the points with Villanova, yet the line is back to -6.5, right where it opened. Based on this data, it appears that books have taken balanced, two-way action so far on this matchup.

My Favorite Bet

Jordan: Villanova -6.5


#1 Kansas vs. #2 Duke (-3) | O/U: 154.5

Omaha, NE | 5:05  p.m. ET on CBS

Schematic Analysis

By Jordan Majewski

When Kansas has the ball

Can KU’s offense shred zones? Absolutely, especially since Svi Mykhailiuk is one of the best corner 3-point shooters in the country. Is Duke’s zone incredibly unique? Absolutely. Referring to Duke’s zone defense as a simple 2-3 is doing it a great disservice. With the perimeter extension, it’s more like a gaseous 4-1 that can shift into state depending on the on-court personnel of the opposing offense. Kansas’ lethal perimeter attack, spearheaded by Devonte’ Graham and the currently on-fire Malik Newman (23-39 from 3 over his last six games), naturally shreds zones. However, the Jayhawks haven’t seen a zone with Duke’s length and nebulous nature.

It is also worth noting that Kansas hasn’t seen a zone since it played Baylor a month and a half ago. The Jayhawks suffered their worst loss of the season in that game. In fact, KU scored only an even 1.00 points per possession in two games vs the Bears this season.

When Duke has the ball

I have no idea how Kansas head coach Bill Self intends to slow down Marvin Bagley. In fact, I don’t think it’s possible. With Lagerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk as his two options, a 30/20 stat line from MBIII isn’t out of the question. When you then factor in Malik Newman’s defensive issues on the perimeter against Gary Trent and Grayson Allen, Duke could be an efficiency monster in Omaha. Guard Marcus Garrett might actually be the best option for Self against Bagley. He’s an excellent lateral defender, but he simply can’t guard Bagley when he backs him down. Garrett is also a MAJOR liability against the Duke zone. With him in the lineup, KU would essentially be playing 4 on 5 offensively.

This is an extremely tough spot for the KU defense, especially when you factor in its poor defensive rebounding against the best offensive rebounding team in the country. After playing against the Syracuse defense, this could feel like the first day out of prison for the Duke offense.

No. 1 Thing I’m Watching For

By Stuckey

Azubuike early Foul trouble

This is a risk in every Kansas game, but the Jayhawks can normally deal with Udoka Azubuike on the bench for long stretches (especially as the season has progressed). That won’t be the case today in Omaha. If the KU big man picks up a quick two or gets in any type of foul trouble, expect a put-back party for Duke. I’ll be ready to fire on the Blue Devils live if it happens.

The Situation

By Wes Reynolds

Duke scored 1.31 and 1.28 ppp against Iona and Rhode Island, respectively. However, the Blue Devils posted only 1.13 against the Syracuse zone while shooting 5-for-26 from deep (most wide open looks). This might actually be a “water finding its level” spot for the Duke offense after having to deal with that extended 2-3 zone. Expect a much better shooting performance from Coach K’s bunch against Kansas.

Did You Know?

By Evan Abrams

Since 1996, Kansas has been listed as an underdog just nine times in the Big Dance under both Bill Self and Roy Williams. The Jayhawks are 6-3 ATS in those games, covering by an average of 3 PPG. In the second round in 2000, Kansas lost by only five as a 10.5-point underdog against Duke. During that same span, Kansas was an underdog as a 1-seed only twice. Kansas won and covered both (2008 Final Four and national championship).

Getting Trendy

By John Ewing

A majority of spread tickets are on Kansas +3.5. Since 2005, underdogs getting a majority of spread bets have gone 100-125-5 (44%) ATS in the NCAA Tournament.

Betting Market

By PJ Walsh

Tickets are split 50/50 for this game, yet the line has ticked down from an opener of Duke -3.5 to -3. This indicates a touch of professional money has driven this line move.

My Favorite Bet

Stuck: Split of Duke 1H ML and Duke -3 (also lean over)
Wes: Duke ML
Jordan: Duke -3

Top photo: Duke’s Marvin Bagley.