2024 March Madness Elite Eight Preview, Analysis & Best Bets

2024 March Madness Elite Eight Preview, Analysis & Best Bets

And then there were eight. Half of the Elite Eight is set to take place Saturday in Los Angeles and features two intriguing matchups. After a few upsets in round one, we got a chalk-heavy Sweet 16. We then revert back to three of the four teams in these matchups winning outright as underdogs. Let’s lock in the March Madness Elite Eight picks!

As the great Dean Smith once said, at this time of the year, it is not about coaching. It’s about the players. I would say he was being modest but there is some truth in it. We have a bevy of great players in this half of the Elite Eight and should be in store for two excellent games. Let’s see if we can find some winners in Los Angeles this weekend.

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2024 March Madness Elite Eight Preview, Analysis & Best Bets

(3) Illinois vs. (1) Connecticut

Spread: Connecticut -8.5

Total: 154.5

Time: 6:09 PM EST

Network: TBS

The Huskies have been a freight train all year. They have won their last nine tournament games by 13 or more points and don’t seem to be slowing down. Their draw up until this point has been favorable but they proved to handle business winning by an average of nearly 29 points.

No debate that the Huskies are the best team, but the best player is on the Illinois side. On top of that, Illinois has top-tier size with seven players who are 6’6 or taller. They will be able to be physical at the point of attack and get downhill, similar to Seton Hall, who beat the Huskies in the regular season.

Much has been discussed about the Illini defense, but they have held each of their tournament opponents to under 70 points. This is the best offense they have faced, but I do think their size and depth can allow them to compete and keep this close.

If you can’t shoot from deep, you have no shot at beating the Huskies. In their three losses, opposing teams shot an average of 50% from deep. This is a small sample size, but it just goes to show what kind of performance it takes to slay this giant.

The Illini don’t solely rely on the three-point shot but are capable of getting white hot from deep. They are shooting around 37% in this tournament but their ability to play inside-out is going to keep the Huskies on their toes.

Usually, the Huskies overwhelm teams throughout the game with their size, athleticism, and depth. That will not be the case against the Illini, especially with as high of a level as Shannon is playing.

If the Huskies do get up by a nice margin, do not be worried. They have shown resilience and the ability to erase big deficits all year. I have this number closer to six, so I will gladly take the extra few points. Do not be surprised if the Illini shocked the world.

The pick: Illinois +8.5 – sprinkle on +325 Moneyline

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(6) Clemson vs. (4) Alabama

Spread: Alabama -3.5

Total: 164.5

Time: 8:49 PM EST

Network: TBS

Not the matchup we were expecting but that’s why it’s called March Madness. This is a rematch of a game Clemson won comfortably back in November. In that game, Clemson shot 52% from deep and held Alabama to 31%.

Even more impressive was that the Tigers flipped a switch when they erased a seven-point deficit around the twelve-minute mark before leading by ten with under five to go.

We know what the Tide wants to do, it is just a matter of limiting the explosiveness. The Tigers did a good job of slowing Arizona down, especially in transition. Can they repeat that against another elite transition team that has more reliable shooting than the Wildcats? Spoiler, I don’t think they can.

Clemson has been impressive, especially to start out games but they were fortunate to hang on in their last two games. The pressure of Baylor and Arizona disrupted their offense and allowed both teams to get back in the game.

We saw Alabama have some success in full-court pressure on the Heels. I think we see pressure early and often from the Tide who are the deeper team and can play up to eight players.

There is some regression looming for the Clemson defense, especially from three. Opponents in the tournament are shooting 14/75 from deep. Their three-point defense is solid but I don’t think that continues, especially against a team that is shooting 42% outside in the tournament.

Clemson is not going to disrupt the Alabama offense. They rank outside the top 340 in turnover defense. The one thing you don’t want to do is allow the Tide to be comfortable in their pick-and-roll or handoff sets.

The Tide are a bit banged up, with Pringle suffering a heel injury last night and Wrightsell missing the last game. Luckily for them, they are a deeper team, and with their offense, it is pretty much plug-and-play.

I do think Wrightsell, who is their best defender, will play and perform well against Chase Hunter, who has been the difference-maker for the Tigers. After not playing their best and being down two key components, I think we see a big effort from the Tide, and they win by a few possessions.

The pick: Alabama -3.5


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