NCAA Tournament Betting Picks: Our Staff’s 5 Favorite Bets for Saturday Elite Eight Games
Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Purdue Boilermakers guard Ryan Cline (14).
The games are dwindling in quantity, but the quality can’t be beat. That’s all you can ask for at this stage.
Gonzaga and Texas Tech, then Purdue and Virginia, will battle it out in the Elite Eight on Saturday night for a spot in the Final Four in Minneapolis next weekend.
Our staff has been hard at work breaking down the small card, and delivered their favorite bets between the two games.
Saturday NCAA Tournament Betting Picks
Collin Wilson: Texas Tech-Gonzaga Over 137
Texas Tech is the best defense in the country with the top ranking in adjusted efficiency. Gonzaga is no slouch on the defensive end either, ranking 13th in the same category.
While the defenses are excellent, a total of 137 be too low. KenPom likes this total at 141; our power ratings at 139. And there are reasons to think there could be plenty of points in this game.
Texas Tech has a tempo ranking of 235th in the nation, but Gonzaga ranks seventh offensively in average possession length. Iowa State, Kansas and West Virginia were recently able to speed up tempo against the Red Raiders, eclipsing 150 in each game.
The Cyclones and Jayhawks play an uptempo pace offensively while West Virginia ranks top 10 in average possession length on defense. Gonzaga should be able to dictate the pace offensively.
Stuckey: Gonzaga-Texas Tech Over 137
I think this total is too short based on what we saw on Thursday night — a little recency bias. Texas Tech played in a game where many didn’t know if either team would get to 40 for a long stretch, while the Zags played pretty slow in the second half in a game that easily went under.
But let’s not forget that this Zags team is the highest-scoring team in the country at more than 88 points per game, and they love to push the tempo. And it’s not like Texas Tech has an incompetent offense. Before its game against Michigan, the Red Raiders averaged just shy of 80 per game over their previous 10 games.
I think you will see Gonzaga push it in transition as much as possible to avoid having to face the elite Texas Tech half court defense.
This is the lowest total of the year for Gonzaga — even lower than the WCC tourney final against St. Mary’s, which was 139. And the Gaels are true snails, ranking 348th in the country in Adjusted Tempo, per KenPom.
Texas Tech doesn’t play fast, but it isn’t molasses at 235 in that same category. I make this 140, which means I will definitely be hitting the over. — Stuckey
Stuckey’s Pick: Over 137
John Ewing: Virginia -4.5 vs. Purdue
Virginia’s offensive output in the tournament has decreased each round from 71 points against Gardner-Webb, to 63 points in a win over Oklahoma and finally a comically low 53 points in the Sweet 16.
Part of the reason the team has struggled on offense is Kyle Guy. He is the team’s second leading scorer and has had a rough tournament. The junior has shot 3-of-26 from behind the arc — he shot 42.7% from 3 this season.
But UVA should experience some positive regression, having averaged 71.0 points per game this year and ranking third in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency. Plus, teams that scored fewer than 60 points in their previous game have gone 170-115-8 (60%) ATS in the NCAA Tournament, including 8-2 ATS in the Elite Eight or later, since 2005.
Regression is likely coming for Purdue as well after the Boilermakers scored 99 points against Tennessee. Since 2005, teams that scored 80 or more points in their previous game have gone 195-233-13 (46%) ATS in the tournament and 88-129-7 (41%) ATS when they are underdogs.
Mike Randle: Virginia vs. Purdue Under 126
As the elusive Final Four gets closer, Virginia’s pace gets even slower. Over their past four games, the Cavaliers have averaged 30.75 points per half. That includes a 41-point “outburst” in the second half against Gardner Webb.
Virginia’s pace is lethally slow and that’s exactly how the Hoos want it. Defensively, UVA’s greatness is well-documented. The Cavaliers held Oregon without a field goal for the final 5:43 on Thursday night.
Purdue relies on the 3-pointer for a whopping 39.2% of its points, 21st most in the country. Virginia excels at defending the 3-point shot, allowing opponents to shoot only 28.1%. In addition, the Boilermakers struggled from the free throw line against Tennessee, shooting only 48.5% (16-of-33).
Outside of Carsen Edwards, Purdue does not have an offensive player who can create their own shot. While guard Ryan Kline was insanely hot against the Volunteers (27 points, 7-of-10 from 3), the chance of a repeat performance against the Cavs is slim.
With both teams having a chance to end a 30-plus year Final Four draught, expect a deliberate and slow pace on Saturday. The first to 60 points wins here.
Eli Hershkovich: Texas Tech +4 vs. Gonzaga
Although the Red Raiders ran into an offensively-challenged Michigan squad at the right time, as it shot 1-of-19 (5.3%) from behind the arc. Texas Tech’s ball pressure caused plenty of havoc while forcing 14 turnovers in the process.
Chris Beard’s bunch has given up the 49th-lowest 2-point scoring rate (45.3%) in the country, and it’s facing a Gonzaga team that’s tallied the 36th-highest 2-point scoring percentage. Expect Texas Tech’s interior defense, led by Jarrett Culver and Co.’s tenacity, as well as Tariq Owens and Norense Odiase’s rim-protection, to give the Bulldogs’ fits off the dribble drive.
At the other end, Culver has been dominant through the first three rounds of the big dance, posting 22.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Those numbers are beginning to rival Magic Johnson and Larry Bird’s performances during their time at Michigan State and Indiana State. The Bulldogs don’t have a dominant defensive wing that can shut him down, either.
Look for Culver and Texas Tech’s 84th-highest scoring rate (52.3%) to have success against a unit giving up 34th-highest 2-point scoring rate (53.5%) in the nation.