March Madness Betting Guide: Elite Eight, Saturday
The NCAA tournament rolls on with the Elite Eight beginning at 6:09 pm ET on Saturday.
Filling out a bracket is the main attraction for most sports fans this time of year, but the fun doesn't have to stop there. It's also the perfect opportunity to place some bets at NCAAB odds.
Which games should draw our attention? Let's find out.
Please note that lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published. Please check here to make sure you're seeing the most updated information.
Houston Cougars (5) vs. Villanova Wildcats (2)
Gonzaga's defeat on Thursday leaves the Houston Cougars as the top remaining team in the tournament, per KenPom and BartTorvik. Despite their seeding, Houston is the nation's second-best overall team on both sites, owning top-10 marks in both adjusted offense and adjusted defense.
The Cougars are the full package, and they've demonstrated that during their run, dispatching all of UAB (12 seed), Illinois (4 seed), and Arizona (1 seed) by double-digit points. According to KenPom, Illinois is a top-20 team and Arizona is top-5, so it's not like these have been cupcake matchups, either.
They're being credited as 2.0-point favorites over the higher-seeded Villanova Wildcats. While Villanova is by no means an easy out, we should have confidence that Houston can notch another victory and punch their ticket to the Final Four.
The Villanova Wildcats aren't quite on Houston's level, but they rate as roughly a top-10 overall squad on KenPom and BartTorvik and possess a top-10 adjusted offense and a top-30 adjusted defense.
While Villanova has looked the part of a 2 seed in three fairly comfortable victories, they've yet to face a top-20 team, so this will be by far their toughest opponent yet. They could be at a distinct disadvantage in certain areas, too.
Houston ranks second in defensive effective field goal percentage (eFG%), per BartTorvik, which should make shooting difficult for a Villanova offense that's 77th in eFG%.
The Cougars are also elite on the offensive glass, coming in as the second-best team in offensive rebounding rate. They should be able to get plenty of second-chance points against the Wildcats, who are just 196th in defensive rebounding rate.
And finally, although both teams are 9-1 over their last 10 games, BartTorvik rates Houston as the best team in the country over that span.
Everything points towards backing Houston to win, and they shouldn't have trouble covering the small spread.
Arkansas Razorbacks (4) vs. Duke Blue Devils (2)
Those hoping for an early end to Coach K's final run with the Duke Blue Devils have instead witnessed yet another deep run in the tournament, and to make matters worse for anti-Duke fans, the Blue Devils no longer have to face the top overall seed in their quest for a national championship.
Duke is a 4.0-point favorite here, and there's no question that the Arkansas Razorbacks will be a less imposing matchup. The Blue Devils are a top-10 team, according to KenPom and BartTorvik, while Arkansas is a top-20 unit.
And yet, we probably shouldn't write off the team that just knocked out Gonzaga, and there are reasons to think Arkansas can cover against Duke.
The Razorbacks are 11th in adjusted defense, and that was on full display in their win over the Bulldogs, holding the fourth-best adjusted offense in the country -- a team that averages 87.2 points per game -- to just 68 points.
They'll need that kind of defensive performance to overcome another high-scoring team; Duke ranks second in adjusted offense.
The Blue Devils rose to the challenge and snuck past Texas Tech (first in adjusted defense) in the Sweet 16, though, so Duke's already bested a formidable defensive foe this week.
That's bad news for an Arkansas team that's weaker on offense, ranking 58th in adjusted offensive efficiency. They haven't shot particularly well all tournament, which includes going a combined 17-for-62 from downtown (27.4%). That's par for the course on an offense that ranks 240th in eFG% and 316th in three-point percentage.
The good news? Duke doesn't exactly play shutdown defense. They're 51st in adjusted defense for the season and 162nd over their last 10 games. Their weaknesses include being 314th in defensive turnover rate and 209th in defensive rebounding rate.
Another positive sign for Arkansas is that they're a battle-tested team that's vanquished some tough opponents down the stretch. They're 8-2 over their last 10, which now include wins over Gonzaga, Kentucky, and Tennessee -- all top-10 teams on KenPom. They also beat Auburn -- the No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 at the time -- in early February.
numberFire's model also likes picking Arkansas and the points, giving the Razorbacks a 54.61% likelihood of covering.