NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks: Best Bets for Saturday’s Elite 8 Games

NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks: Best Bets for Saturday’s Elite 8 Games article feature image
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Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images. Pictured: Andre Jackson Jr. (UConn)

The final two No. 1 seeds went down on Friday evening, making this the first time in NCAA tournament history that no top seeds reached the Elite 8.

The entertainment is great, but where's the betting value?

Our staff has you covered with their best bets for Saturday's Elite 8 games, including UConn vs. Gonzaga.

So, dive in below and get the top NCAA tournament odds, best bets and picks for Saturday.


Saturday's 3 Elite 8 NCAA Tournament Best Bets

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college basketball staff is targeting from Saturday's slate of games. Click the team logos for one the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

Game
Time
Pick
6:09 p.m. ET
Under 144.5
6:09 p.m. ET
Kansas State -1.5
8:49 p.m. ET
UConn -2
Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAB Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

Florida Atlantic vs. Kansas State

Saturday, March 25
6:09 p.m. ET
TBS
Under 144.5

By D.J. James

The FAU Owls have shocked those who didn’t watch much mid-major basketball this year. There’s a reason they have only three losses on the season to date.

They will now take on the Kansas State Wildcats, who pieced together a win on the back of point guard Markquis Nowell.

These are two top defenses going at each other. Both rank in the top 30 in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, according to KenPom. KSU averages 17.7 seconds per possession defensively, and FAU averages 18.1 seconds per possession defensively, which ranks 296th in the nation.

In addition, FAU allows an effective field goal percentage of just 45.7%, while Kansas State gives up a mark of 47.9%. However, the Wildcats restrict opponents to 30.5% from deep. This matters immensely, as the Owls shoot 3s 44% of the time, ranking 35th in the country.

Now, KSU does have issues turning the ball over, but FAU only turns opponents over 17.9% of the time. This shouldn’t be as much of a concern for bettors wondering if these teams can get out in transition in this matchup.

FAU also does a great job of controlling the ball, owning a turnover clip of just 16.5% offensively.

One concern may be FAU being better on the glass, as KSU ranks 248th in defensive rebounding. But other than that, the usual quick paces of both of these teams shouldn’t be as large of a factor as defense.

Take the under.

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Kansas State -1.5

By Patrick Strollo

The No. 3 seed Kansas State Wildcats will face the No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic Owls in the opening game of the Elite 8 at the grandest stage of them all: Madison Square Garden.

The winner will advance to next weekend’s Final Four, a round that Kansas State hasn’t seen in nearly 60 years.

Meanwhile, Florida Atlantic is looking to make its debut in the semifinal.

I think a key part of breaking down this game is looking at what it took for each team to get to this point of the season.

Kansas State was bounced from the Big 12 Tournament in the quarterfinals after losing to TCU, 80-67. While the loss was a disappointment, the early exit bought Kansas State eight full days of rest to prepare for the Big Dance.

In the tournament, the Wildcats have defeated Montana State (113th, per KenPom), Kentucky (28th) and Michigan State (25th).

Given the last two opponents and results, Kansas State seems to be hitting its stride at the right time.

On the other side, Florida Atlantic won the Conference USA regular-season and tournament championships, capping off an excellent year. After earning the C-USA auto-bid, the Owls disposed of Memphis (21st), Fairleigh Dickinson (265th) and then Tennessee (7th).

While Florida Atlantic’s run has been electric — and everyone loves a Cinderella story — I do think some of its success should be taken with a grain of salt.

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images. Pictured: Johnell Davis (FAU)

The Owls’ opening-round win over Memphis was impressive, as they outmuscled the Tigers in the paint to advance to the Round of 32.

The Owls haven’t convinced me enough since then, though.

In the second round, they beat the original darling of the tournament, No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson, the third-worst statistical team in the tournament. Lastly, they beat a physical but notoriously fickle Tennessee team that shot just 33.3% from the field.

When looking at what these two teams have been through this year, it’s pretty clear that the rigor of Kansas State’s Big 12 schedule gives it the edge in terms of being battle-tested. Kansas State has a strength of schedule rating of 19th in the nation compared to Florida Atlantic’s rating of 118th, per KenPom.

In the tournament, the average KenPom rank of opponents through three rounds is 55.3 for the Wildcats to 94.6 for the Owls.

For Kansas State to pick up the win, it will need to clean up a couple of areas that have plagued it this season.

First, it needs to protect the ball. The Cats have been turnover-prone this season, ranking 263rd in turnover rate.

Secondly, they must win the battle on the defensive glass.

So far this postseason, they have cleaned up those trouble spots, mitigating some of my statistical caution.

Kansas State has the better defense and is better at getting to the line. As small chalk with a deeper breadth of experience, I like Kansas State to secure the win in New York City this evening.

My model is projecting Kansas State as a 4 point-favorite, and I recommend laying the points at -2.5 or better.

Pick: Kansas State -1.5 (Play to -2.5)


UConn vs. Gonzaga

Saturday, March 25
8:49 p.m. ET
TBS
UConn -2

By BJ Cunningham

Connecticut manhandled Arkansas in the Sweet 16 and now is the betting favorite to cut down the nets.

The Huskies shot 64.7% from inside the arc and 9-of-20 from 3-point range in the win over the Razorbacks. But most importantly, they held Arkansas to just 31.9% from 2-point range and just 22 points at the rim.

Dan Hurley’s team took away a lot of the advantages Arkansas had offensively, and UConn should be able to do the same here against Gonzaga.

First off, the Huskies have an outstanding big man in Adama Sanogo, who will be able to guard Drew Timme and not allow him to single-handedly destroy their defense.

On offense, Gonzaga wants to get to rim, get out in transition and get the ball inside to Timme. Connecticut ranks ninth in the country in PPP allowed at the rim and 18th in PPP allowed in transition. It's also above-average at defending post-up sets.

I also don’t know how Gonzaga stops Connecticut unless the Huskies go cold from the field.

UConn is a high-volume 3-point shooting team, ranking 66th in 3-point rate and hitting over 36% of its triples this season. Gonzaga has been terrible defending the 3-point line, allowing teams to hit 35.2% of their long-range attempts, which is 257th in the country.

The Zags also rank 290th in Open 3 Rate Allowed.

This is also the first time Gonzaga will face a high-volume 3-point team since it played Grand Canyon in the opening round. The Lopes went 9-of-24 from 3 in that contest.

Connecticut is also a top-100 combined frequency team in utilizing both off-ball and on-ball screens, while Gonzaga is outside the top 250 in defending both of those.

I think the road ends here for Gonzaga and Connecticut moves onto the Final Four.


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