March Madness 2011 Predictions: Picks Against the Spread for the Elite Eight

James BrownSenior Analyst IMarch 26, 2011

March Madness 2011 Predictions: Picks Against the Spread for the Elite Eight

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    There are only eight teams left in college basketball, all squaring off for the right to go to the Final Four and get one step closer to winning a NCAA national championship.

    As the number of games gets smaller, the Vegas odds get tighter. Linemakers scour the games to put the best spread and get the most action in the Elite Eight, leading up to the championship game.

    Here is a breakdown of every game in the Elite Eight with odds, trends and some winning picks.

Butler Bulldogs vs. Florida Gators

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    The latest Elite Odds have the Gators listed as 3.5-point favorites over Butler.

    The Bulldogs are one scrappy bevy of ball players that just don’t know how to lose. The media is treating this team like Cinderella, but in reality, they made it to the Final Four last year, so it’s about time to give them the respect they deserve.

    They play a tenacious defense and have big men such as Matt Howard and Andrew Smith who can stretch defenses by making the outsides shoot. Brad Stevens is a talented coach who will be on the hire list of many major colleges after the tournament is over.

    Now that I have given them the respect they deserve, it’s time to pick against them in the Elite Eight.

    The Florida Gators are an underrated bunch led by an experienced coach in Billy Donovan. Junior point guard Erving Walker is lightning quick and will have the ability to move the ball around Butler’s pesky defense.

    The Gators proved against BYU that they have the ability to shoot the three and play powerful inside. Alex Tyus is coming off a monster game inside and will bring back an edge that Butler will have to try and match up with. Chandler Parsons has no problem extending the defense with his long-range ability and uncanny talent to drive the lane.

    The Gators have the edge in this number. They've had success for basketball bettors in the past, as they are 13-3 against the spread in the last 16 games of the NCAA tournament.

    Think Donovan noticed that Butler collapsed late against the press when they played Wisconsin? Donovan will show why he should get credit as one of the better coaches in the college game, as the Gators devour the Bulldogs.

    Elite Eight Pick: Florida Gators (-3.5)

UConn Huskies vs. Arizona Wildcats

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    The latest Elite Eight Odds for this game have the Huskies labeled as 2.5-point chalk over Arizona.

    The Huskies are very talented and have made an incredible run thus far. Kemba Walker is one of the best players in the tournament and is making players around him step up to the challenge. Young players for the Huskies are maturing as the tournament evolves, including young Jeremy Lamb, who has become a scoring threat alongside Walker.

    Lamb was 9-of-11 from the field and logged 30 minutes while contributing 24 points in the win over San Diego State. If the Huskies are able to retain their players for years to come, they have a dynasty in the making.

    However, for this team, the March Madness stops here.

    Arizona has the best player in the tournament in Derrick Williams, who looks like he is ready for the NBA right now.  Williams posted 36 points in a upset win over Duke, with a combination of three-point shots and easy buckets down low.

    The Huskies don’t have the size down low to match up with the endless line of big players the Wildcats have.  For those who will argue that the Huskies did not have the size against the Aztecs, I will counter with this argument.

    The Aztecs got into foul trouble early, and some of their best players sat out while the Huskies were lights out from the floor. UConn head coach Jim Calhoun mentioned at halftime of the Aztecs game that the Huskies would not win many more games by shooting long three-pointers.

    Arizona had 35 rebounds against Duke, 13 offensive. They will have the same success against UConn and will get second-chance opportunities that will translate into a big win on the court.

    The first upset in the Elite Eight is the Wildcats over the Huskies.

    Elite Eight Pick: Arizona Wildcats (+2.5)

VCU Rams vs. Kansas Jayhawks

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    The latest odds have the Kansas Jayhawks listed as 11-point favorites over the VCU Rams.

    The Rams deserve credit for making an incredible run in this year’s tournament, but it’s midnight for this Cinderella.

    This team has to be tired. The Rams played an extra game to get this far into the tournament, and they are coming off a very physical overtime game against Florida State. The Rams rely on a fast-paced defensive attack to pester the opposition, but they won’t be able to utilize that attack for a full game against Kansas.

    Kansas is the best team left in the tournament and the only No. 1 left. Kansas has yet to have a challenge in this tournament, as they have mowed down the opposition. The Morris twins seem unstoppable, and this team is focused on going to the Final Four.

    The Jayhawks will go to Houston next week without having beaten higher than a nine-seed, with a blowout victory over the Rams.

    Elite Eight Pick: Kansas Jayhawks (-11)

Kentucky Wildcats vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

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    The Elite Eight has saved the best for last. The Kentucky Wildcats take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in the final game of the week.

    The odds should change as game time approaches, but the latest odds list the Wildcats as slim one-point favorites over the Tar Heels.

    The Wildcats are coming off their biggest win of the year, beating the Ohio State Buckeyes on a last-minute shot by young point guard Brandon Knight. Knight looked fearless as he sank his second last-minute winning shot of the tournament. As exciting as that shot was, the Wildcats won this game with defense.

    They only allowed 36 percent shooting to the Buckeyes and held them quiet from beyond the arc. Cats head coach John Calipari is getting the best of his players, as evidenced by the energetic play of senior center Josh Harrellson.

    On the other side of the court, North Carolina is playing great basketball. They trounced Marquette to make it to the Elite Eight and have not had a challenge getting this far. Tyler Zeller led North Carolina with 27 points and 15 rebounds, but like Kentucky, the Heels won the game with a smothering defense.

    This game will be a physical game between two of the best teams in college basketball and should provide plenty of excitement. The Wildcats are 6-1 against the spread in their last seven non-conference games, and the Tar Heels are 1-5 against the number in their last six neutral site games as an underdog.

    In a game that has potential to be close, I will back Knight and the Wildcats to advance to the Final Four.

    Elite Eight Pick: Kentucky Wildcats (-1)

    Matt Regaw is a B/R Featured Columnist and the founder of BookieBlitz.com, your one-stop shop for sports articles, previews and predictions. Feel free to contact Matt at mregaw@gmail.com.