NCAA Tournament Picks: Saturday Elite Eight Tips Off

Matthew Jordan

Friday, March 25, 2016 6:22 PM UTC

Friday, Mar. 25, 2016 6:22 PM UTC

The top two seeds in the West and South Regions square off for the first two spots in Houston next Saturday. Here are my picks with Heritage NCAA basketball odds.

No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 1 Oregon
West Region final from Anaheim with a tipoff of around 6:09 p.m. ET. The winner plays the victor of the below game in the Final Four. On my Thursday picks story, I previewed Oklahoma's game against third-seeded Texas A&M and I loved the Sooners at -2.5 because they clearly had the best player on the floor in All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield, the potential National Player of the Year. Plus Texas A&M was incredibly lucky to even be in the Sweet 16 after staging the greatest comeback in NCAA history in the Round of 32 against Northern Iowa.

So I wasn't surprised at all that OU (28-7) beat the Aggies comfortably, 77-63. A&M did an OK job on Hield as he only got 13 shots. He finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. But Hield got plenty of help with four other players scoring in double figures, led by Jordan Woodard's 22 points. The Sooners really shared the ball as their 23 assists were the second-most of the season. OU, one of the nation's top 3-point shooting teams, was 11-for-25 from long range. That's the 23rd time this season the Sooners have made at least 10. Oklahoma is looking for its first Final Four trip since 2002 and has never won a national title.

While Oklahoma didn't win either the Big 12 regular season or tournament titles, Oregon (31-6) won both in the Pac-12, although an argument could be made that was the weakest Power 5 conference with only the Ducks reaching the Sweet 16. I'd say it was a bit better than the SEC but that's it. The Ducks were 3-point favorites against No. 4 Duke on Thursday and won 82-68. Oregon's Dillon Brooks, maybe the best player casual bettors don't know about, had 22 points, six assists and five rebounds. Oregon is perhaps the least-known team left in the Big Dance as it's not an annual powerhouse -- football yes -- and most of its games start after many Americans are asleep. Oregon, which has set a school record for victories, did play one Big 12 team this season, beating Baylor in November. Oklahoma swept Baylor. Oregon has been to one Final Four: in 1939 when it won the national title in the first-ever NCAA Tournament.

This will all come down to 3-point shooting most likely, assuming no foul trouble or injury for Hield or Brooks. In the regular season, Oklahoma was No. 2 nationally in percentage (42.6). None of Oregon's three NCAA Tournament foes have hit better than 31 percent. Go Sooners -- Big 12 is simply better than Pac-12 -- and 'under' here. The 'under' is 11-2 in Oklahoma's past 13 games on the NCAA Tournament odds and 7-3 in Oregon's past 10.

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Free NCAA Tournament Pick: Under 151
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle


No. 2 Villanova Vs. No. 1 Kansas
South Region game at approximately 8:50 p.m. ET (will be pushed if first game runs long) from Louisville. It's really a shame these two have to meet before the Final Four as Villanova and Kansas were both ranked No. 1 in the polls for several weeks this year -- KU is still there. And they are both conference champions, with Villanova taking the Big East regular-season crown and KU sweeping the Big 12 titles. Nova (32-5) was a 4-point favorite on Thursday against No. 3 Miami and the deep Wildcats  put on a shooting clinic in a 92-69 wipeout; Thursday was a bad day for ACC teams as the three schools from that conference to play that day all lost by double digits. 

The Cats shot 62.7 percent from the field and 66.7 percent (10-for-15) from 3-point range against a good Hurricanes defensive team. Villanova is shooting an absurd 59.9 percent from the field and 53.2 percent on 3-pointers in three easy wins in this tournament. There was one concern against Miami when Villanova center Daniel Ochefu tweaked an ankle early in the second half. It was the same right ankle injury that hampered him in the Big East Tournament, but Ochefu played through it Thursday and didn't seem to favor the ankle. He finished with 17 points. Villanova is looking for its first Final Four trip since 2009.

No. 1 overall seed Kansas (33-4) has looked every bit the part thus far. The Jayhawks handled No. 5 Maryland, a very talented club that was top five in the preseason polls, 79-63 -- KU has beaten every school in this tournament by at least 12 and has won 17 straight games overall. Neither Perry Ellis nor Wayne Selden is considered a top NBA prospect, but they are dominating college basketball right now. Ellis had 27 points and five rebounds against Maryland and Selden 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists. 

It did help Kansas' cause that Terps star freshman Diamond Stone was hampered with foul trouble, but the result surely wouldn't have changed. KU did only hit three 3-pointers and that probably won't be enough against Villanova. KU, which is stellar 12-2 this season against AP Top 25 teams, is looking for its first Final Four trip since 2012.

These teams played fairly recently, a 63-59 Villanova win in a 2013 Thanksgiving holiday tournament in the Bahamas. Several players on each side remain from that game, although KU's stars that season were Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. Take Kansas as your NCAA basketball picks here and go 'over.' KU is 14-3 ATS in its past 17 games.  The 'over' is 10-2 in Villanova's past 12 games.

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Free NCAA Tournament Pick: Over 145.5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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