March Madness Elite Eight Day 1: Best Bets, Predictions, and Where to Watch

March Madness Elite Eight Day 1: Best Bets, Predictions, and Where to Watch
Image © Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Kuthula Magubane
Kuthula Magubane
December 23rd 2022

You always get what you ask for with March Madness–and this year is no different. It has definitely been a tale of titans battling it out to the bitter or glorious end at the 2022 NCAA Tournament. The First Four and first and second rounds of the 2022 NCAA Tournament featured six games that went to overtime (the record for a single tournament is seven), four double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16 and, to top it all off, a steller run from the Saint Peter’s Peacocks, becoming the third No. 15 seed to reach the second weekend of the tournament.

Now the teams left will face off this weekend for a chance to reach the Elite Eight and eventually the Final Four. Only 12 teams remain in the 2022 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, with the Elite Eight to be set on Friday night. Friday features several surprising teams, including three double-digit seeds. No. 15 Saint Peter's looks to continue its stunning run against No. 3 Purdue behind new Buffalo Wild Wings spokesperson Doug Edert, while Miami and Iowa State face off in a No. 10 vs. No. 11 matchup. No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 4 Providence and No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 8 North Carolina round out a bracket that is far from chalk. It's sure to be a busy night, as these lower-seeded teams try to continue their impressive runs.

Before we get into who I think will be winning today's games, let's talk business--if you want to place some money on these games, you'll have to take a look at the best sportsbooks available in your area. BetMGM is offering odds on all of today's games, and if you use the exclusive promo code ODDSEEKER upon registration, you can receive up to $1000 in risk-free bets!

Arkansas vs. Duke

When: Saturday March 26 (7:49 p.m. CT,)

Where: TBS

Line: Duke -4

Duke, the No. 2 seed in the West Region, beat the No. 3 seed Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Sweet 16. Now they have their sights set on the No. 4 seed Arkansas Razorback. Arkansas upset the No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga Bulldogs on Thursday, and the Razorbacks are 28-8 overall. Arkansas is an elite defensive team, and they completely overwhelmed the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Thursday, creating havoc and holding the No. 1 overall seed well below its baseline. Arkansas is No. 11 in the country in defensive efficiency, and opponents are shooting 46.4 percent from 2-point range and 32.4 percent from 3-point range this season. They force a turnover on more than 20 percent of defensive possessions, and the Razorbacks are securing nearly 75 percent of available defensive rebounds.

Duke also has a highly ranked offense. The Blue Devils are led by multiple potential NBA lottery picks, and are No. 2 in the country in offensive efficiency. They are in the top eight of the nation in shooting efficiency, including a blistering 56.2 percent mark on two-point attempts.

The Blue Devils are also shooting 37 percent from 3-point range, and Duke is in the top 25 in turnover rate, giving the ball away on only 15.1 percent of possessions. Duke also boasts a 31.7 percent offensive rebound rate, and they are in the top 50 of the country in assist percentage.

Yes, on paper Duke is the better team, but if there is any team that has the momentum to give them a run for their money it's Arkansas. They are playing the type of ball that can leave a young team (like Duke's lineup) frozen in a frenzy if they allow the Razorbacks to control the pace of the game.

Prediction: Arkansas 86-Duke 78 

Villanova vs Houston

When: Saturday March 26 (6:09 pm CT)

Where: TBS

Line: Houston -2

Villanova is a veteran team full of upperclassmen who make a whole lot of shots in key spots, they are 12th in the nation in fewest turnovers, and lead all of college basketball on the free-throw line.

That’s definitely an advantage in this NCAA Tournament.

What’s most interesting is that Villanova is not that high up when it comes to shooting. It’s just that they always finds a way to come up with timely points when they are needed the most. More than that, the team doesn’t turn it over or give up easy chances. The Wildcats turned it over six times in the win over Michigan and nine times in the win over Ohio State. They haven't turned it over more than ten times in a game since March 10th.

Villanova isn’t going to have a problem getting up and down the floor against Houston. They’ll set up the open shots far better than Arizona did, and they’ll do much better from the free throw line.

Houston on the other hand will own the offensive glass. Almost no one out rebounds Arizona, but the Cougars were +2 with ten offensive rebounds sucking the life out of the Wildcats on seemingly every key possession. They are always active, and have come up with ten or more offensive rebounds in each of the last five games, now they are 25-1 when coming up with ten or more. Houston will also dominate from the three point line; and although Villanova is good at working around a lack of size at times, it's about to deal with a relatively small team that can move fast, and play hard defense. The Cougars play like they have an extra man on defense, ranked No. 1 in the nation in field goal defense, No. 11 at guarding the three, and No. 2 in the nation in total rebounds, this – even more than Arizona – is the exact wrong team for Villanova unless it goes lights out from three, which Houston is known for shutting down.

Prediction:  Houston 90-Villanova 73

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