Villanova and Kansas Lead Charge Towards Elite Eight

Willie Bee

Thursday, March 22, 2018 11:33 AM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018 11:33 AM UTC

After a crazy first weekend of action full of upsets and buzzer-beaters, the NCAA Tournament heads to the regionals and we have free picks for who makes the Elite Eight.

Elite Eight Picks

Kentucky, Loyola-Chicago, Gonzaga, Michigan, Villanova, Texas Tech, Clemson, Duke

When you pick 24 out of 32 games correctly, as I did in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, you should feel pretty good about your chances. In my case, however, I had several of the eight teams that lost advancing into the Sweet 16, and that left huge holes on my chart, especially in the South and East Regions.

The good news is I get to start with a clean slate in hopes of coming up with the correct picks for the Elite Eight. We might as well start in the South where the mother of all upsets took place in Round 1 as No. 16 UMBC whipped No. 1 Virginia and none of the top 4 seeds are left standing. No. 5 Kentucky is the highest-seeded squad left, and I have them getting past No. 9 Kansas State in the second game Thursday night at Philips Arena.

The evening begins in Atlanta with a battle between No. 7 Nevada and No. 11 Loyola-Chicago, Bookmaker favoring the Wolf Pack by 1½. Both teams have scored impressive victories, Nevada taking out No. 2 Cincinnati and Loyola edging both No. 6 Miami and No. 3 Tennessee. I’m running with Sister Jean and the Ramblers.

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Dallas was fun. It was amazing being back in Chicago!

But it's time for Atlanta! #OnwardLU #MVCHoops #LUCMBB100 #MarchMadness #NoFinishLine

— Loyola Basketball (@RamblersMBB) March 20, 2018

ACC Teams Rule Midwest Bracket

Out West, the top two seeds are gone after Xavier and North Carolina each suffered second-round setbacks. No. 3 seed Michigan is the highest seed remaining, and the Wolverines take on No. 7 Texas A&M in Thursday’s first tip at LA’s Staples Center. The Wolverines barely escaped Houston in Round 2, while the Aggies routed the defending champion Tar Heels. Texas A&M played well, no doubt, but also caught UNC on a very bad day, and I believe Michigan wins a close one. The top half of the West finds No. 4 Gonzaga taking on No. 9 Florida State, and I fully expect the Bulldogs to continue their quest to return to the Final Four.

Friday’s action tips in the Midwest where No. 1 Kansas is grouped with three ACC teams. The Jayhawks are favored by 4½ on the college basketball odds vs. No. 5 Clemson, and not only do I think the Tigers stay close enough to cover, I believe they’ll pull off the outright upset. A double-ACC battle is next in Omaha as No. 2 Duke collides with No. 11 Syracuse. The Blue Devils throttled the Orange in Durham late in the season, and while I’m not sure they’ll cover -11½ this time, I do expect Coach K’s crew to win and set up a showdown with Clemson for a trip to the Final Four.

East Only Region Where Higher Seeds Enjoyed First 2 Rounds

Everything went pretty much according to plan in the East Region, where the top three seeds plus No. 5 West Virginia advanced to Boston. Bob Huggins’ charges will begin the evening action against No. 1 Villanova, and the Wildcats will win and cover as 5½-point favorites. No. 2 Purdue meets No. 3 Texas Tech in the second game Friday, and the Boilermakers are favored by less than a field goal over the Red Raiders. Give Purdue credit for getting past Butler without center Isaac Haas (elbow), but the Boilers won’t repeat that against Texas Tech.

Whether or not I’m right or wrong remains to be seen, but one thing you can count on is SBR will cover the tourney to the end with free NCAA basketball picks.

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