With so many exciting moments, breakout performances, and huge upsets, it’s hard to believe that the NCAA Tournament started just over a week ago. Along the way, we’ve lost all four No. 1 seeds. In fact, this is the first time in NCAA history a No. 1 seed didn’t make the Elite 8 and the Final Four.
Yesterday, in the Midwest, tournament-favourites Houston was beaten by 5-seed Miami in the Sweet 16. Prior to beating Houston, Miami narrowly beat Drake in the first round before blowing out four-seed Indiana in the Round of 32. Miami’s huge upset means it will face off against Texas for the right to represent the Midwest Region in the Final Four. Compared to Miami’s path, Texas has strolled to the Elite 8 by beating Colgate, Penn State, and Xavier.
This year’s March Madness Tournament is one of the craziest in recent memory. The South Region is a good example why. Two-seed Arizona was knocked out by 15-seed Princeton on the first day of the tournament. Princeton’s fairytale run came to an end at the hands of Creighton in the Sweet 16, but the upsets kept coming in the South Region. Creighton’s opponent in the Elite 8 game this Sunday also pulled off a big upset. San Diego State beat one-seed Alabama in the Sweet 16 after beating NC State in the first round and upsetting Baylor in the Round of 32.
With each region set for a final showdown, it’s time to take a look at the second day of Elite 8 action.
|(5) San Diego St.||+1.5 (-110)||o133.5 (-110)||(6) Creighton||March 26, 2:20 PM|
|(2) Texas||-4 (-110)||o150 (-110)||(5) Miami-Florida||March 26, 5:05 PM|
(5) San Diego State vs (6) Creighton (-1.5, 133.5 o/u)
Time (ET): 2:20 p.m.
Odds to win the tournament: San Diego State (+850), Creighton (+550)
Previous tournament games:
San Diego State
Round of 64 – SDSU 63, Charleston 57 (Aztecs covered as 5.5-point favourites, teams played under 142.5-point total)
Round of 32 – SDSU 75, Furman 52 (Aztecs covered as 4.5-point favourites, teams played under 135.5-point total)
Sweet 16 – SDSU 71, Alabama 64 (Aztecs covered as 6.5-point underdogs, teams played under 137.5-point total)
Round of 64 – Creighton 72, NC State 63 (Bluejays covered as 5.5-point favourites, teams played under 148.5-point total)
Round of 32 – Creighton 85, Baylor 76 (Bluejays covered as 1.5-point favourites, teams played over 143.5-point total)
Sweet 16 – Creighton 86, Princeton 75 (Bluejays covered as 10-point favourites, teams played over 141.5-point total)
Creighton is one of those universities a lot of the country doesn’t think about until the March Madness tournament. This is with good reason. Over the past decade, Creighton has become a tournament regular which always has a chance of going far. This year is the furthest they’ve the school has ever been though. The Bluejays easily dispatched NC State, Baylor, and Princeton on their way to their first Elite 8 appearance in team history.
The other team in this matchup is also making their first Elite 8 appearance in its history. The San Diego State Aztecs shocked the world in the Sweet 16 round by handling one-seed Alabama. Before that, SDSU took care of business against underdogs Charleston and Furman.
Creighton has made it this far thanks to its high-powered, efficient offence. The Bluejays were one of the top 40 scoring teams in the NCAA this season, but have taken it to another level in the tournament. They’re averaging six more points per game and are terrorizing defences with elite pick-and-roll play, courtesy of players like Ryan Kalkbrenner and Ryan Nembhard.
Unlike Creighton, the Aztecs actually had to beat a team ranked higher than them to get to where they are in the tournament. That team was the one-seed Alabama. Alabama was one of the big favourites this year, but it was no match for SDSU’s defence. SDSU has a top-25 defence in the country and that pedigree has carried over to the tournament. The Aztecs have held opponents under 65 points per game and forced their opposition into shooting a combined shooting percentage of just 32%.
Creighton is in the Elite 8 because of its offence. SDSU is here thanks to its defence. This stylistic clash will make for an interesting game this Sunday.
Betting stat to know: Creighton has gone back to basics with the pick and roll this tournament. Kalkbrenner is the biggest benefactor of this so far. He’s averaging 21 points per game and could have another big game against SDSU’s aggressive defence.
Best bet: SDSU has gone under the total in all three games so far. Sportsbooks have responded by setting the over/under line at a low 132.5 points. It’s very possible that SDSU keeps Creighton quiet, but if its defence slips up at all, Creighton and SDSU could easily combine to score more than 133 points. Take the over in this one.
(5) Miami (FL) vs (2) Texas (-4, 150 o/u)
Time (ET): 5:05 p.m.
Odds to win the tournament: Miami (+900), Texas (+350)
Previous tournament games:
Round of 64 – Miami 63, Drake 56 (Hurricanes covered as 2.5-point favourites, teams went under 145.5-point total)
Round of 32 – Miami 85, Indiana 69 (Hurricanes covered as 1.5-point underdogs, teams went over 145.5-point total)
Sweet 16 – Miami 89, Houston 75 (Hurricanes covered as 7.5-point underdogs, teams went over 140.5-point total)
Round of 64 – Texas 81, Colgate 61 (Longhorns covered as 13-point favourites, teams played under 148.5-point total)
Round of 32 – Texas 71, Penn State 66 (Longhorns did not cover as 5-point favourites, teams went over 138-point total)
Sweet 16 – Texas 83, Xavier 71 (Longhorns covered as 4.5-point favourites, teams went over 148.5-point total)
Texas came into this tournament as one of the best of the rest. As the tournament’s progressed, the Longhorns have shed that label and proven themselves to be bonafide favouites. They took care of business against Colgate, Penn State, and Xavier. Now, just Miami sits between Texas and its first Final Four appearance since 2003.
For the second consecutive year Miami has reached the Elite 8 under head coach Jim Larrañaga. The Hurricanes started their campaign by knocking out Drake in the first round and then upsetting Indiana in the Round of 32. Miami’s Cinderella campaign marched on in the Sweet 16 when it defeated Houston, 89-75, thanks to a great three-point shooting performance.
Texas is undefeated in the six tournament games it has played so far this season. The Big-12 champions are averaging 78 points per game in the tournament so far, but more importantly, they’re holding their opposition to just 66 points per game. These numbers are close to what Texas averaged during the season, so they prove Texas isn’t just on a hot streak. The Longhorns really are just this good.
Even though Miami had a great regular season, it had lots of doubters coming into the tournament. The Hurricanes’ star player, Norchad Omier, was expected to be out for the first round, so many pundits backed Drake over Miami. Omier and the Hurricanes have proved them all wrong. Omier has played every game of the tournament so far and is averaging 15 rebounds per game.
The Longhorns have been dominant offensively and defensively, so they should advance to the Final Four over Miami. That’s what people said about Houston too, though. Do the Hurricanes have one more upset in them?
Betting stat to know: Three or more players have scored 10 or more points in each of Texas’ three March Madness games so far. This is an impressive display of teamwork, but also makes it challenging for bettors to pick players for individual player prop bets.
Best bet: The Hurricanes are 3-0 against the spread so far, but Texas has made a habit of defying expectations in this tournament, so I think the -4 point spread might be too close for these teams, especially since the Hurricanes have been so reliant on their three-point shooting. Take Texas to cover the points.