March Madness bracket betting: With No. 1 seeds gone, the picks for Saturday's Elite Eight
When the NCAA tournament started, there were no strong favorites. Everyone knew it could be a wide-open March Madness.
But no No. 1 seeds in the Elite Eight? Losses by Alabama and Houston on Friday knocked out the remaining two No. 1 seeds. This is the first time since the NCAA tournament expanded in 1985 that no No. 1 seed survived to the Elite Eight. RIP to your brackets.
Someone has to play in the Final Four. We get our first two entrants on Saturday. Here are the picks for the Elite Eight games Saturday, with odds from BetMGM:
Florida Atlantic (+1.5) over Kansas State
It's hard to root against either team at this stage in the tournament. Kansas State has been spectacularly entertaining. Florida Atlantic has proven to the world that their great regular season was no fluke. Kansas State hasn't been to the Final Four since 1964. FAU has never even been to an Elite Eight before. Both teams have been fun to watch this tournament.
The first order of business in this game is Kansas State guard Markquis Nowell's ankle injury. He said Friday he's "85 to 90%" according to the Wichita Eagle, and nobody seems too concerned. He played a great game against Michigan State even after injuring the ankle, though there was likely some adrenaline involved. It sounds like he'll be fine. He has been the breakthrough star of the tournament. If it's not him, it might be Wildcats coach Jerome Tang. Kansas State has been fantastic.
But there's just something about this Florida Atlantic team. The only knock against the Owls is they play in Conference USA. Everything else on their resume indicates they belong in this Elite Eight and they wouldn't be a fluky Final Four team. They were just under-seeded. Kansas State isn't the type of team that will blow FAU away with size or athleticism. I think a good 3-point shooting Owls team knocks down shots and goes to the Final Four.
UConn (-2.5) over Gonzaga
Nothing against the other six teams, but it feels like our national champion is coming from this game. Maybe Texas has a claim. Or maybe this will be the biggest outlier program we've seen win a title in the modern era. It has been that kind of tournament.
Gonzaga is on a great run. The win over UCLA on Thursday was an instant classic. The Bulldogs' offense is the best in college basketball, according to KenPom.com. If they go on and win the first national title in school history, especially with all the No. 1 seeds gone, it wouldn't be a big surprise.
But UConn will be a really hard matchup. They have the depth up front to at least slow down Drew Timme, something UCLA didn't have when Timme torched them all night. Timme is a great college player and he'll get his buckets, but it will be hard to dominate against UConn's front line. And this Huskies team has the look of a national champion in this tournament. They're a No. 4 seed, but the analytics say that was a mistake. This has been a top-five team all season, according to the computers, and that's exactly what it has looked like in the tournament. All of UConn's pieces fit well. I think the Huskies move on to the Final Four.
Friday's Sweet 16 record: 3-1
Tournament to date: 28-31