NCAA Bracket 2018: Predictions, Odds, Tips for Sunday's Elite 8 Schedule

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2018

Marvin Bagley has the talent to dominate any game.
Marvin Bagley has the talent to dominate any game.Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

There's something to be said for upstart teams like Loyola-Chicago that have risen from a No. 11 seed and have won their first four NCAA Tournament games to earn a spot in the Final Four.

However, when it comes to dominating talent and big-time players and coaches, the Elite 8 matchup between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Duke Blue Devils is at a completely different level. Those two teams will tip off Sunday in Omaha, Nebraska, at 5:05 p.m. ET. The Blue Devils are three-point favorites, per OddsShark.

Duke is coming off a hard-fought 69-65 victory over Syracuse in the Sweet 16, and the Blue Devils were able to win that game based on their ability to force turnovers and get to the free-throw line. They won the turnover battle 16-7 and made 20 of 28 free throws.

That allowed them to overcome 39.3 percent shooting from the floor.

The Jayhawks played extremely well fairly deep into the second half. However, after building a 20-point lead with 12 minutes to go, they stopped executing, and Clemson got back into the game. The Tigers could not win the game, but they broke the hearts of Kansas backers as they closed the final margin to four points. Kansas came into the game as five-point favorites.

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While this appears to be a close game that could come down to the last minute, it may be hard to go against the Blue Devils. They are 10-2 in their last 12 NCAA tournament games as favorites and 9-3 against the spread (per OddsShark).

Duke freshman Marvin Bagley III may turn out to be the key player in the game. He leads the Blue Devils with an average of 21.2 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. Senior Grayson Allen is averaging 15.6 points per game and is shooting 84.6 percent from the free-throw line, while Gary Trent Jr. is scoring 14.4 points per night.

The Jayhawks won the Big 12 regular-season title as well as the Big 12 conference tournament, and they are led by Devonte Graham, who is scoring 17.3 points and handing out 7.4 assists per game. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman, Udoka Azubuike and Lagerald Vick are all averaging in double figures for Kansas.

     

Sunday's Elite 8 games

No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 1 Villanova (-6.5), 2:20 p.m. ET on CBS (Prediction: Villanova 88, Texas Tech 77)

No. 2 Duke (-3) vs. No. 1 Kansas, 5:05 p.m. ET on CBS (Prediction: Duke 79, Kansas 71)

       

Villanova vs. Texas Tech

The top-seeded Wildcats came through with a 90-78 victory over West Virginia Friday night.

After getting pushed hard by the Mountaineers well into the second half, the Wildcats took control of the game with an offensive burst in the second half. Jalen Brunson had 27 points to lead the Wildcats, and Villanova was deadly from beyond the arc, making 13 of 24 three-point shots.

It's difficult to see Texas Tech finding a way to beat Villanova if the Wildcats have a similar shooting day. However, if the athletic Red Raiders can come out and play hounding defense and cause problems, they could stay in the game well into the second half. Texas Tech earned its way into this regional final matchup by beating Purdue 78-65.

Villanova is led by Brunson, who is averaging 19.3 points per night and shooting 53.5 percent from the field. Mikal Bridges is a strong complementary asset, averaging 18.0 points per night, while Donte DiVincenzo is a solid clutch player who is scoring 12.9 points per night.

Texas Tech is led by Keenan Evans, who is averaging 17.7 points per game and shooting 48.0 percent from the field. Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver are averaging 11.4 and 11.2 points per game, respectively.

Villanova is 5-1 in its last six games as favorites of 6.5 or more, while the Red Raiders are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games against the spread.