NCAA Bracket 2019: Predictions, Odds Tips for Sunday's Elite 8 Schedule

Jake RillCorrespondent IMarch 31, 2019

CORRECTS TO KELDON JOHNSON, INSTEAD OF PJ WASHINGTON - Kentucky's Keldon Johnson, rear, celebrates with teammate Tyler Herro near the end of a men's NCAA tournament college basketball Midwest Regional semifinal against Houston, Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

Two teams have secured spots in this year's Final Four, and two more will do the same during the final Elite Eight matchups of the NCAA men's basketball tournament on Sunday.

No. 1 seed Virginia and No. 3 seed Texas Tech have advanced to the national semifinals, which take place on Saturday in Minneapolis.

Sunday's games feature a No. 1 seed, two No. 2 seeds and a No. 5 seed, so both contests should be exciting and competitive.




Sunday Schedule, Odds

No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 2 Kentucky (-4.5), 2:20 p.m., CBS

No. 2 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Duke (-2), 5:05 p.m., CBS


Predictions and Betting Tips

Kentucky over Auburn

For the third time this season, these SEC rivals will face off. But on Sunday, the stakes are much higher, with a spot in the Final Four on the line.

It could be seen as a bit of surprise that these are the final two SEC teams alive—and that both have made it this far. LSU was the conference's regular-season champion. Auburn, meanwhile, made a nice run through the SEC men's tournament to win the championship game against Tennessee.

Although Kentucky may not have won either SEC title this year, head coach John Calipari knows how to get his teams deep into March Madness. That's why the Wildcats will win Sunday, making them the smart choice for people betting on this game.

Kentucky's three losses in its past 23 games were all against Tennessee, which has been eliminated from the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats beat Auburn 82-80 on Jan. 19 and 80-53 on Feb. 23.

"We know how good they are," Calipari said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "We've had battles. We were lucky to win down there; they missed a layup. We played pretty good, and they missed shots they normally make at our place.

"We respect them. We respect their players and what they do and how hard they play. We're a little different than them. One good thing, this means that the SEC will have one team in the Final Four."


Duke over Michigan State

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

As the betting line indicates, this is going to be a close matchup—and probably the toughest game that No. 1 overall seed Duke will have in the NCAA tournament.

The Blue Devils have already had several close calls during March Madness. They pulled out a 77-76 win over No. 9 seed UCF in the second round and followed that with a 75-73 victory against No. 4 seed Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16.

They are now going up against a Michigan State team that has won 13 of its past 14 games, including the Big Ten tournament championship game and three NCAA men's basketball tournament games. This is the only Elite Eight matchup that features a No. 1 seed vs. a No. 2 seed.

"Now that it's March Madness, every game is kind of going to be like this—close, hard-fought games," Duke freshman RJ Barrett said, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "We somehow find a way to keep winning at the end. It's great. We're not surprised by it, but we've just got to keep it up."

Barrett and Zion Williamson may have to carry a bigger load against the Spartans, as fellow freshman standout Cam Reddish is a game-time decision for Sunday. Reddish missed the Blue Devils' win over Virginia Tech on Friday with a knee injury.

Expect a big game from Williamson that pushes Duke into the Final Four.