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Betting Stuff: Analysis, picks against the spread for every Elite Eight game

The Elite Eight is set to begin on Saturday evening with a pair of highly-anticipated matchups.

Top-seeded UConn will take on Illinois in the first matchup of the round. The Huskies are the defending national champions and have won a remarkable 9 consecutive NCAA Tournament games by 13 or more points. Alabama-Clemson will be the nightcap — a rematch of an earlier meeting in Tuscaloosa this season that was won by the Tigers.

On Sunday, Purdue and Tennessee will get things started in another rematch. The Boilermakers defeated the Vols by 4 points earlier this season and are slight favorites to beat Tennessee again on Sunday and advance to their first Final Four since 1980. The final Elite Eight game, of course, is also a rematch between ACC foes Duke and NC State. Those programs are 1-1 so far this season, with the Wolfpack winning as a double-digit underdog in the ACC Tournament just a couple of weeks ago.

Here are some picks against the spread for the Elite Eight:

(Note: All spreads via ESPN BET unless otherwise noted; all times Eastern) 

1 UConn vs. 3 Illinois | Saturday, March 30 | 6:09 p.m. | TBS | Boston, Massachusetts

Spread: UConn -8.5

Total: 154.5

Derek Peterson: San Diego State had a top-10 defense (per KenPom) entering its Sweet 16 matchup with the Huskies and the defending champs averaged 1.344 points per possession against it. And that was without Donovan Clingan, who played just 23 minutes, scored 8 points on 9 shots, and dealt with foul trouble. UConn flows so effortlessly from defense to offense; the Huskies are out-rebounding teams 121-81 in the tournament and have turned 34 opponent turnovers into 47 points. But I think Illinois, with its top-ranked offense, can pose enough problems to keep this within arm’s reach. The Illini are an excellent rebounding team and boast 1 of the country’s best individual scorers in Terrence Shannon Jr. PICK: Illinois +9 (via Caesars)

Spenser Davis: I took the points with San Diego State earlier this weekend, and that was obviously a big mistake. UConn’s No. 1-ranked offense (per KenPom) gets to face one of the worst defenses left in the field as it looks for its 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament win by double-digits. Terrence Shannon Jr. is a big-time scoring threat, but I’d back Dan Hurley to have a good plan to stop Illinois’ other offensive weapons such as Marcus Domask and Coleman Hawkins. I think the Huskies will get it done. PICK: UConn -8.5 (via FanDuel)

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4 Alabama vs. 6 Clemson | Saturday, March 30 | 8:49 p.m. | TBS | Los Angeles, California

Spread: Alabama -3.5

Total: 164.5

Derek Peterson: The most consistent aspect of Clemson’s run to the Elite Eight has been the relative unsustainability of its 3-point defense. New Mexico shot 20 percentage points under its season average from the 3-point line in the first round. Baylor shot 14 percentage points under its season average in the second round. Arizona shot 19 percentage points below its season average in the Sweet 16. The Tigers packed the paint and dared Arizona to take and make 3s. Like those who came before them, the Wildcats whiffed. Now comes Alabama, a team that lives and dies by the 3. And the Tide are playing with maximum confidence. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, but this run of 3-point luck has to end at some point and giving up 3s to Alabama is playing with fire. PICK: Alabama -3 (via Caesars)

Spenser Davis: I think the Tigers are live here. They’ve already beaten Alabama once this season (in Tuscaloosa!) and have consistently played well during the NCAA Tournament. Clemson has benefitted from a bit of shooting luck (who hasn’t at this stage of the Tournament?) but that’s not necessarily going to change against the Tide. Alabama is a very high-volume 3-point shooting team and has been subject to cold spells from beyond the arc this year. I’ll back the Tigers to beat the number here. PICK: Clemson +3.5 (via Bet365)

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1 Purdue vs. 2 Tennessee | Sunday, March 31 | 2:20 p.m. | CBS | Detroit, Michigan

Spread: Purdue -3.5

Total: 137.5

Derek Peterson: The Boilermakers are barreling toward a national championship. After a complete performance dismantled Utah State in the Round of 32, another complete performance shredded Gonzaga in the Sweet 16. So far this tournament, the Boilermakers have shot 54% from the field, shot 42% from 3, and assisted on 78% of their makes. This offense is a buzzsaw, and there may not be a team left in the field equipped to handle it. PICK: Purdue -3 (via DraftKings)

Spenser Davis: When these teams met earlier this season, Purdue won by 4 as 3.5-point favorites on a neutral floor. In some ways, nothing has changed: Zach Edey went to the foul line 17 times and Fletcher Loyer made a bunch of 3-pointers. In other ways, a lot has changed: Jordan Gainey took 10 3-pointers and Dalton Knecht only attempted 13 shots. Overall, I think both teams are a lot better than they were back when they first met in November — but especially Purdue. The Boilermakers’ past NCAA Tournament failures have thrown people off the scent a bit, but this team is a machine. They have a generational talent who is incredibly impactful on both ends as well as complimentary pieces all over the floor. Discount them at your own risk. PICK: Purdue -3 (via DraftKings)

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4 Duke vs. 11 NC State | Sunday, March 31 | 5:05 p.m. | CBS | Dallas, Texas

Spread: Duke -6.5

Total: 142.5

Derek Peterson: Sort of like Clemson, NC State has voodoo’d teams into forgetting how to shoot from beyond the 3-point line. Marquette shot 4-for-31 from 3 in its 67-58 loss to the Wolfpack. Had the Golden Eagles just shot their season average (36%), a 9-point loss becomes a 12-point win. Duke doesn’t scare me from 3 in quite the same way Alabama does, so I’ll get some insurance and continue riding with one half of the ACC’s Cinderella story. PICK: NC State +6.5 (via ESPN BET)

Spenser Davis: This will be the third meeting of the year so far between these in-state rivals. In the first matchup, Duke won by 15 points in Raleigh. The Blue Devils were favored by 11 points when they met again in the ACC Tournament. Of course, NC State pulled off the upset in that game — and hasn’t stopped winning since. However, the fact that this line is 4.5 points lower than it was just a couple of weeks ago tells me that there may be an overreaction in the market to NC State’s Tournament run. Wolfpack opponents are shooting 23.7% from 3-point range in the Tournament. Defending the perimeter was not a strength for NC State during the regular season, so I think it’s fair to expect some regression soon. Duke was the ACC’s best 3-point shooting team this year, hitting those shots at a 38.5% clip. Kyle Filipowski is playing his best basketball of the season, too. I like the Blue Devils big in this spot. PICK: Duke -6 (via DraftKings)

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Derek Peterson
Derek is the news manager at Saturday Out West and covers college football for all Saturday Football brands. Follow on Twitter.

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