The Mayhem of March – Elite 8

March 31, 2024

NCAAM: (2) Tennessee vs. (1) Purdue

2:20 p.m. ET, CBS

Purdue -3 (-110) | O/U 147.5 (-110)

Steven Erler-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA tournament is nearing its homestretch as the Elite Eight rolls on into Easter Sunday. The first game on the slate is a fantastic matchup between two of the best teams in college basketball, the Tennessee Volunteers and the Purdue Boilermakers. Both of these squads were among the favorites when the NCAA Tournament started, and this matchup is not a surprise, given how the favorites have cleaned up throughout the tournament for the most part. Let’s look at this Elite Eight matchup from a betting perspective, with a spot in the Final Four on the line.

This has been a tournament of redemption for Purdue following their first-round exit a season ago as a top seed. The Boilermakers have looked sharp in their three tournament games, beating Grambling 78-50, Utah State 106-67, and most recently, Gonzaga 80-68. Let’s look at that Sweet 16 matchup versus Gonzaga as it’s the most recent sample. The Zags got out to a hot start, and Purdue held a four-point lead headed into halftime. The Boilermakers then outscored the Bulldogs 40-32 in the second half and won behind a 27-point and 14-rebound effort from a big man Zach Edey. He will be the primary focus for Tennessee.

The Vols path has not been quite as smooth as they nearly lost to the Texas Longhorns during the round of 32 in a nail-biter game. Still, they are still in the Big Dance and find themselves in the Elite Eight after an 82-75 victory over Creighton on Friday night. Dalton Knecht has been a star for the Vols this season, averaging 22 points per game during the tournament. These two squads clashed earlier in the season, with Purdue winning the game 71-67. There were an unusual number of fouls in that game – 51 to be exact. Now, there’s no guarantee Sunday’s matchup will mirror their meeting earlier in the season, but you can expect a physical matchup between two high-caliber offenses.

Hoops Harlan’s Pick: Purdue -3.5 (-110) 

The outcome of this game will likely be determined by Zach Edey’s impact out of the gate. He’s been a force on the court and is the leader of this Purdue squad. Standing at 7-foot-4, Edey’s ability to get going early opens up scoring opportunities on the permitter for Purdue as they are capable of scoring both inside and out. Knecht should be able to get his, but the Vols will need to figure out how to maintain pace with a dynamic Boilermakers offense. The Vols defense is one of the best remaining units in the NCAA Tournament; however, slowing down this Purdue team is a tall task. Let’s look for the Boilermakers to punch their ticket to the Final Four.


NCAAM: (11) NC State vs. (4) Duke 

5:05 p.m. ET, CBS

Duke -7.0 (-110) | O/U 143.0 (-110)

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The final game of the Elite Eight is a showdown between arguably the most well-known program in college basketball and the Cinderella story of this year’s tournament, as Duke takes on NC State.

There’s always one Cinderella team during March Madness, and this season it’s the Wolfpack. NC State is riding an eight-game winning streak, with their last loss coming back on March 9 against Pitt, a team that did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament. NC State locked in for the ACC Tournament, where they beat Duke and North Carolina to punch their ticket to the Big Dance. Since winning their conference tournament, NC State has been running hot with wins over Texas Tech, Oakland and a big upset over No. 2 seed Marquette in the Sweet 16. NC State was roughly a six-point underdog for their matchup with Marquette but wound up winning the game outright thanks to a balanced effort from DJ Horne, Casey Motsell, and Mohamed Diarra, who each scored double-digit points. NC State is the lone double-digit seed still standing, and they will take on a familiar foe.

This has been a low-key season for Duke relative to what we are accustomed to. Following rough patches early in the season, Duke hit its stride heading into the NCAA Tournament. While they were eventually bounced by NC State in the ACC Tournament, they rebounded nicely and looked sharp through their first three games of the tourney, with convincing wins against Vermont and James Madison. The Blue Devils’ most impressive win came in the Sweet 16 as they took down No. 1 seed Houston 54-51. Granted, Duke was aided by Houston star Jamal Shead being sidelined for most of the game due to an ankle injury. Nonetheless, Duke did what they needed to do as Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach locked in during the second half en route to the win.

Hoops Harlan’s Pick: NC State +7.0 (-110) 

These two teams are very familiar with each other, which should make for a compelling matchup on Sunday. The two ACC schools are 1-1 head-to-head this season, with both games coming in March. Typically, this is the time when the cream begins to rise to the top during the NCAA Tournament; however, NC State is a live dog in this matchup. Duke has done their part so far, but their path to the Elite Eight has been relatively easy. Their first weekend games were layups, and while the win against Houston was impressive, it happened in large part due to the Cougars being without their best player. NC State is running hot and has already beaten this Duke team once. The Wolfpack are playing with house money and have a chance to keep this game close. Let’s look for NC State to keep this game within the number.