MIAMI HURRICANES (27-7) vs. VILLANOVA WILDCATS (31-5)
KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:10 p.m. ET
Villanova -4, Total: 141
#2 Villanova and #3 Miami will be battling for a spot in the Elite Eight when the teams meet in Louisville on Thursday.
The Hurricanes are coming off of a very impressive victory on Saturday, defeating #11 Wichita State 65-57 as 1.5-point underdogs. Miami shot 55.3% from the field in that game and held the Shockers to just 33.9% shooting. It was the confidence-boosting win that the Hurricanes needed after barely escaping with a 79-72 victory over #14 Buffalo in the first round of the tournament.
Villanova, meanwhile, has been absolutely dominant through the first two rounds of the tournament. The Wildcats defeated #15 UNC-Asheville 86-56 as 17.5-point favorites in the opening round of the tournament and followed it up with an 87-68 victory as six-point favorites against #7 Iowa on Sunday. Villanova has shot 57% or better from the field in each of the past two contests and will be hoping to keep it up heading into this meeting with Miami.
The last time these teams met was in 2004 and the Hurricanes won that game 59-56. Villanova covered the 8.5-point spread in that game, but Miami is 8-4 both SU and ATS in this head-to-head series since 1997. One thing favoring Miami in this game is the fact that the team is 10-3 ATS after a non-conference game this season.
However, Villanova is an impressive 20-7 ATS versus teams that commit 12 or fewer turnovers per game over the past two seasons. Both teams are at full strength heading into this game, so injuries aren’t likely to play a factor in the outcome.
Miami is coming off of an impressive showing on Saturday and the team will be hoping to carry that momentum over into Thursday’s meeting with Villanova. G Angel Rodriguez (12.6 PPG, 4.4 APG, 1.6 SPG) is really going to be the most important player for this team on Thursday. Rodriguez has been on fire this tournament, averaging 26.0 PPG, 4.5 APG and 3.5 SPG over the first two contests. His matchup with Arcidiacono will come a long way in determining who wins this game. Rodriguez must avoid turning the ball over too much and he’ll need to dig in on the defensive end.
G Sheldon McClellan (16.0 PPG, 1.1 SPG) will also really need to come through for the Hurricanes offensively on Thursday. McClellan is averaging 19.0 PPG on 10-for-21 shooting from the floor in the first two games of this tournament. He buried some huge threes against Wichita State that prevented the Shockers from stealing momentum on Saturday and he’ll need to hit some more big shots on Thursday. If he does not show up then Miami may not have enough firepower to overcome Villanova in this game.
The x-factor for Miami is C Tonye Jekiri (7.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.0 BPG). Jekiri has been non-existent in the tournament, averaging just 3.5 PPG and 5.0 RPG over the first two contests. Miami needs him to step it up on Thursday, as the Hurricanes need a presence around the basket offensively and they also need him to protect the rim in this one. He has blocked zero shots in the tournament thus far and that cannot be the case after Thursday’s game or that’ll likely mean that the Hurricanes have been eliminated.
Villanova has been one of the best teams in college basketball all season long and the Wildcats get it done on both ends of the floor. Heading into this game, they’re averaging 77.0 PPG (83rd in NCAA) and allowing just 63.7 PPG (20th in NCAA). They’ll need to be ready to play an all-around game against Miami on Thursday. While Villanova is an extremely deep team, there are a few guys that stand out as the most important players.
G Ryan Arcidiacono (12.0 PPG, 4.4 APG, 1.4 SPG) is the guy that the Wildcats will be leaning on in this one. Arcidiacono is averaging 15.0 PPG and 4.0 APG throughout the tournament thus far, and he was an impressive 10-for-15 from the floor and 6-for-9 from three over the first two games. If he can continue to knock down his outside shot then it will open up his drives to the rim. He is very good at finishing around the basket, but he is also a feisty defender. He should be able to get into the heads of Miami’s guards and help create some turnovers on Thursday.
G Josh Hart (15.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.1 SPG) and F Kris Jenkins (13.3 PPG) will be two guys that are really counted on to score in this game. They combined to score 34 points against Iowa in the second round and Villanova can use a similar performance from them against the Hurricanes. Both players are very good three-point shooters, but they are also capable of taking it to the rim. Hart will need to be locked in defensively, as he could see some time guarding McClellan in this one.
F Daniel Ochefu (9.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.6 BPG) could be the x-factor for Villanova, though. Ochefu must hold his own against Jekiri in the paint or it will be very tough for the Wildcats to advance.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES (22-8) vs. OKLAHOMA SOONERS (27-7)
Honda Center – Anaheim, CA
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:35 p.m. ET
Oklahoma -3, Total: 146.5
Texas A&M (15-13-3 ATS) and Oklahoma (12-20 ATS) battle for a spot in the Elite Eight on Thursday night, their first meeting since the Aggies left for the SEC in 2013-14. Texas A&M holds a 6-4 (7-3 ATS) head-to-head advantage over the Sooners since 2009.
The Aggies are playing arguably their best basketball of the season, going 10-1 (7-3-1) since Feb. 16th. Their only loss in that span was an 82-77 (A&M +4) loss to Kentucky in the SEC tournament title game. Texas A&M, No. 3 in the West Region, defeated No. 14 Green Bay in the first round (92-65, A&M -13) and then stunned No. 11 Northern Iowa 92-88 in double-overtime (A&M -7), now famously coming back from down 12 points with 44 seconds left in regulation.
Oklahoma, No. 2 in the West Region, is 5-2 SU in their last seven games but an abysmal 0-7 ATS in that same span. The Sooners have been favorites in six of those seven contests where they failed to cover. After bowing out in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals against West Virginia (69-67, OU +1.5), the Sooners have defeated No. 15 Cal State Bakersfield (82-68, OU -15) and No. 10 VCU (85-81, OU -6) on the road to the Sweet Sixteen in Anaheim.
Oklahoma needed another superb performance from potential National Player of the Year Buddy Hield (29 PPG, 49.6% FG, 46% 3PT), who put up 36 points – 19 of them in the last eight minutes – to lead the Sooners to victory. The guard is 19-34 from the field and has 63 points in the tournament over two games thus far.
Both the Aggies 6-2 (4-3-1 ATS) and Sooners 6-1 (2-5 ATS) have enjoyed success on neutral courts thus far this season. Texas A&M is 2-3 SU (2-3 ATS) as an underdog this season, while Oklahoma is 22-4 SU (8-18 ATS) as a favorite. In total trends, the UNDER is 10-2 in Oklahoma’s last 12 games.
Oklahoma seemed to get back to their three-point shooting ways of yore, going 11-20 from deep in the win over Cal State Bakersfield in the opening round. Buoyed by the partisan crowd in Oklahoma City for the first two rounds of the tournament, the Sooners looked locked and loaded heading into a second round matchup with VCU, only to need Hield to put on his Superman cape and rescue them from an upset. Outside of Hield’s 6-14 performance from deep, the rest of the Sooners went 2-12, highlighted by G Isaiah Cousins (13.1 PPG, 4.5 APG) and G Jordan Woodard (12.8 PPG, 44% 3PT) combining for 2-10 3PT. Oklahoma can’t keep winning games solely on the back of Hield if they expect to advance further in this tournament, and they won’t have the home crowd at their back on Thursday night as they did for the opening two rounds.
F Ryan Spangler (10.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 37.6% 3PT) has been completely neutralized in the first two rounds, combining for just 11 points and 15 rebounds. Some of this is due to playing smaller opponents and coach Lon Kruger playing matchups, but Spangler will be sorely needed to step up against the size of Texas A&M, as the Aggies are amongst the top 40 teams in the country on the glass and have out-rebounded eight of their last 10 opponents. While the Sooners are also respectable on the glass (38.5 RPG), they allow opponents to feast on the offensive boards to the tune of 10.1 OR/G (278th NCAA).
The Sooners can get careless off the bounce and with passes (314th NCAA in steals allowed – 7.1 per game), highlighted by Hield, Cousins and Woodard combining for 6.9 turnovers per game. This does not bode well against a Texas A&M defense averaging 7.1 steals per game (60th NCAA).
Texas A&M will have to pull out the game tape from VCU’s near-upset last round and see how they can duplicate the Rams’ perimeter defense, although they may want to stop watching once Hield heats up in the second half. For all of the Aggies’ defensive strengths (66.1 PPG, 38th NCAA; 40.5% FG, 35th NCAA; 14.4 TO, 41st NCAA), it should be noted that teams tend to think that they can beat the Aggies via the three point shot (22.9 3PA per game, 306th NCAA). Texas A&M defends the long-range shot decently (33% 3PT, 83rd NCAA) but hasn’t faced a prolific perimeter offense the likes that the Sooners will bring with them to Anaheim on Thursday night. In the Aggies’ only loss in their past 11 games, it should be noted that Kentucky was very effective (41.7% 3PT) from beyond the arc.
Key to the Aggies success on offense—and Oklahoma will allow their opponents to put points on the board (70.7 PPG allowed)—will be F Jalen Jones (15.4 PPG) and G Danuel House (15.8 PPG).
Jones, a matchup nightmare who’s more effective in the post as an undersized “four” (3-24 3PT since Feb. 24), will have to find his scoring stroke to complement a sizzling House (25 PPG over his last three). House scored 32 points in the SEC title game against Kentucky and his individual heroics in the second half and overtimes (22 points) were a catalyst against Northern Iowa.
Senior G Alex Caruso (8.1 PPG, 5.0 APG, 2.0 SPG) scored a team-high 25 points against the Panthers, a season best for him. Caruso will play a big role on both ends of the court for the Aggies, as his instincts and long arms on defense could lead to lots of steal opportunities. He will also most likely be tasked with keeping tabs on Hield.
Big men Tyler Davis (11.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG) and Tonny Trocha-Morelos (7.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG) provide skilled interior options for Aggies coach Billy Kennedy to go to for balanced offense. Davis and Trocha-Morelos outplaying their forward counterparts on Oklahoma’s side (Spangler and Kadeem Lattin) will be a nice subplot in this contest.
MARYLAND TERRAPINS (27-8) vs. KANSAS JAYHAWKS (32-4)
KFC Yum! Center – Louisville, KY
Tip-off: Thursday, 9:40 p.m. ET
Kansas -6.5, Total: 144
No. 5 seed Maryland looks to topple the NCAA tournament’s top seed, Kansas, in a Sweet Sixteen battle on Thursday night.
Maryland (16-16-2 ATS) will be facing Kansas (22-11 ATS) for the first time since 2002’s Final Four – the last time Maryland won a national title. The Terrapins would win that game 97-88 (Kansas -1.5), but they haven’t made it past the Sweet Sixteen in their last six attempts.
Since the Jayhawks’ loss in the national championship to Kentucky in 2012, they also haven’t made it past the Sweet Sixteen (three tries). Coach Bill Self’s Jayhawks own the nation’s longest current winning streak (16 games, 13-3 ATS) as they haven’t lost since Jan. 25th. Kansas has been a favorite in 15 of those 16 games (+3.5 at Oklahoma on Feb.13).
The Jayhawks are 8-1 (7-2 ATS) in neutral site games, their only loss being in the Champions Classic back in November to Michigan State. Most recently, Kansas took care of West Virginia in the Big 12 title game (81-71, KU -5) before dispatching Austin Peay (105-79, KU -24.5) and Connecticut (83-71, KU -7.5) with relative ease.
Maryland’s path to Louisville hasn’t been as seamless as Kansas’, as the Terrapins are 5-5 SU (5-5 ATS) in their last 10. Maryland last lost in the Big Ten semifinals to Michigan State (64-61, MD +5) before struggling to put away No. 12 South Dakota State, 79-74 (MD -9), and then dismissing No. 13 Hawaii (73-61, MD -7.5). Maryland is 7-1 (6-2 ATS) on neutral site courts but is also winless (0-5 SU, 2-2-1 ATS) as an underdog this season.
In total trends, the OVER is 4-2 in Kansas’ last six games and is also 6-2 in Maryland’s last eight NCAA Tournament games.
While Maryland’s record as an underdog is daunting for the Terrapins’ faithful, the team was ranked No. 3 in the preseason Top 25 AP poll (one spot ahead of Kansas) due to their depth of talent and experience on the roster. Arguably boasting more future pros than their Sweet Sixteen counterpart, the Terrapins will rely on one of the most balanced starting fives in the country.
Led by G Melo Trimble (14.8 PPG, 5.0 APG), the Terrapins boast the #5 most efficient offense in the country (1.19 points per possession) and are #11 from the field (48.9% FG). At 69.1 possessions per game (276th NCAA) Maryland is content to play very slow and work for their best offensive opportunity, while forcing their opposition to be inefficient on offense (0.99 points per possession allowed, 18th NCAA).
With a 55.8% FG inside the arc, Maryland boasts multiple inside options like freshman F Diamond Stone (12.7 PPG, 56.6% FG, 1.6 BPG) and senior F Robert Carter (12.4 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 56.1% FG, 1.3 BPG). Coach Mark Turgeon will need Stone and Carter to continue to play big (5.3 BPG, 13th NCAA) against the slashing Jayhawks guards and interior standout Perry Ellis.
Aiding Trimble on the perimeter are F Jake Layman (11.7 PPG, 40.6% 3PT), who put up 27 points in the opening round win over South Dakota State, and G Rasheed Sulaimon (11.1 PPG, 44.7% 3PT). Sulaimon is oddly still looking for his first three-point make of the NCAA Tournament (0-5). Trimble is the bellwether of this offense, though, scoring 19 and 24 points respectively in Maryland’s first two wins while having ice water in his veins at the line (22-23).
While Maryland boasts five players in double-figures amongst their starting five, Kansas has arguably just as talented a starting five, and their bench production will be a big advantage over their opponent’s miniscule production from their subs. Make no mistake, though, the Jayhawks starters – G Frank Mason III (12.8 PPG, 4.3 APG), G Wayne Selden (13.6 PPG, 40.8% 3PT), F Ellis (16.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 52.2% FG) and G Devonte’ Graham (11.4 PPG, 3.8 APG, 1.3 SPG) – are excellent.
F Landen Lucas (5.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG) didn’t start for much of the season, but has been a revelation with solid interior defense and rebounding, playing a perfect role to round out the Kansas starting five. Lucas actually scored 16 points in the opening round win over Austin Peay and grabbed 12 rebounds in 34 minutes in defeating UConn.
Lucas’ frontcourt partner, Ellis, has been superb over two tournament games as well. Ellis has scored 21 points in each game and is 17-24 FG over that span. Added production from Mason III will be big if Kansas wants to keep winning, however, as the junior guard is just 3-15 FG (0-6 3PT) in the tournament thus far.
The Jayhawks offense (80.8 PPG) boasts 49.1% FG shooting (6th NCAA) and 41.6% 3PT shooting (4th NCAA), but Kansas is mediocre from the line (71% FT, 130th NCAA). Kansas is generous to opponents on the offensive glass (9.3 ORG, 208th NCAA), but fortunately for them, Maryland would prefer to get back on defense than attack for second-chance opportunities.
DUKE BLUE DEVILS (25-10) vs. OREGON DUCKS (30-6)
Honda Center – Anaheim, CA
Tip-off: Thursday, 10:05 p.m. ET
Oregon -3.5, Total: 157
No. 4 seed Duke, continuing its national-title defense, faces its stiffest test of the NCAA tournament in No. 1 seed Oregon.
Oregon (19-13-1 ATS) and Duke (14-18-2 ATS) battle on Thursday night for the right to go to the Elite Eight. Oregon’s last trip that deep in the tournament was 2007, but coach Dana Altman has taken the Ducks to the NCAA Tournament for four straight years now, going 6-3 in the process. Altman’s first and only Sweet Sixteen appearance was the 2013 tournament where the Ducks (as a 12 seed) lost to Louisville.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski has taken his Blue Devils to the Sweet Sixteen in 15 of his last 19 seasons (including this season), going 7-7 SU in that span. Duke has struggled mightily ATS (1-6) recently, covering for the first time in their last seven tries in their second-round win over Yale (71-64, Duke -6). Duke is 4-3 SU in that span, including their opening-round win over UNC-Wilmington (93-85, Duke -10).
This will be both Duke’s first game against a Pac-12 opponent this season (and the same can be said for Oregon and the ACC). On neutral courts the Blue Devils are 5-3 SU but 1-7 ATS, and are a measly 1-5 SU (1-4-1 ATS) as underdogs this season.
Oregon comes into this marquee matchup hot, winners of their last 10 games (6-4 ATS) including the Pac-12 Tournament. The Ducks carry the banner for their conference, with the Pac-12 flaming out in the opening rounds. Oregon gained a No. 1 seed after pasting Utah in the conference championship game, 88-57 (Oregon -2), and then proceeded to beat No. 15 Holy Cross (91-52, Oregon -23) and No. 8 St. Joseph’s (69-64, Oregon -7) most recently on Sunday. The Ducks are 7-1 (4-4 ATS) on neutral site courts and own a 23-3 (15-11 ATS) mark as a favorite. In total trends, the UNDER is 6-3 in Oregon’s last nine games.
The Blue Devils go from playing No. 12 and 13 seeds in Yale and UNC-Wilmington to the Pac-12 champion, No. 1 Oregon, which will obviously pose new problems for Duke. That said, Coach Krzyzewski does have experience from last season’s title run to lean on in the form of G Grayson Allen (21.8 PPG, 47% FG), C Marshall Plumlee (8.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG) and G Matt Jones (10.5 PPG, 40.5% 3PT).
While Allen has been Duke’s leading scorer throughout the season and the NCAA Tournament (26 PPG, 90.5% FT) and Plumlee is 10-11 FG against lesser competition, posting tournament averages of 12 PPG and 9 RPG, Duke’s most dynamic offensive weapon has been freshman F Brandon Ingram (17.1 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 41.5% 3PT). He’s initiated the offense many times during Duke’s run while committing only one turnover, and has played all but one minute in the two Duke victories. In the last four games against Top 25 opponents, though (UNC twice, Louisville once, ND once), Ingram has struggled, shooting 18-59 from the field including an 8 point, 10 turnover performance against the Cardinals.
While Oregon has one of the most imposing and long defenses in the nation around the rim, the Ducks can be had from the perimeter, and Duke at 38.7% 3PT (20th NCAA) and 9.2 3PM (24th NCAA) definitely has the ability to take advantage. Duke’s issues, as usual, will come from their woes keeping opponents off the offensive glass (332nd NCAA). They allowed Yale to crush them on the glass, 42-28, and Oregon has outrebounded eight of their last 10 opponents.
Duke’s overall defense, a continuing question mark this season (72.2 PPG), struggles most against bigger teams who attack the paint, and Oregon much prefers to work closer to the basket and use the dribble drive instead of swinging the ball around for an open jumper.
Oregon will take their stifling interior defense (5.9 BPG, 3rd NCAA) into a matchup with perimeter-oriented Duke, and that could give the Ducks some problems. While there’s no doubt that Oregon has the athleticism and talent to run Duke off the floor, the Pac-12’s overall performance has given pundits pause in predicting much more success for Oregon beyond this round.
The Ducks will have to exploit their advantage in the paint with athletic forwards Chris Boucher (12.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3 BPG), Elgin Cook (14.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG) and matchup nightmare Dillon Brooks (16.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.1 APG). Brooks’ 25 points carried Oregon to a closer-than-expected second round win over St. Joseph’s in the round of 32, and he’s coach Altman’s go-to guy in the clutch.
Cook, a senior, has surprised with playmaking ability in the tournament, dishing four assists in each of Oregon’s two games, and is the type of strong, bouncy forward that seems to feast on Duke’s weak interior defense and rebounding.
F Jordan Bell (6.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.7 BPG) had fallen out of the main rotation in favor of Boucher after recovering from injury earlier in the season, but the sophomore (Bell) has outplayed Boucher thus far in the tournament, defending smaller players better and cleaning the glass (10 rebounds versus St. Joseph’s).
While Oregon is an average rebounding team overall, their skill on the offensive glass (32% OR, 50th NCAA) should be easily exploited against Duke. If Oregon can defend the long range shot (35.8% 3PT, 241st NCAA) better than they have for most of the year—and more like they have against Holy Cross and St. Joseph’s (both held under 27% 3PT)—they’ll have a much better chance to advance.