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Elite 8 predictions, expert picks, best bets for NCAA tournament

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The 2023 NCAA Tournament has been super exciting thus far. Will the last-second fireworks keep exploding? The trend continued in the Sweet 16, with UCLA falling to Gonzaga in spectacular fashion. I still can’t believe the Zags won! 

We’re betting on every single game in some way, shape or form throughout all of March Madness. You read that right: Every. Single. Game. Whether it’s against the spread (ATS), on the moneyline or picking an Over/Under — we have you covered. 

Let’s press onward toward teams cutting down the nets with our Elite Eight picks (with all odds via FOX Bet).

RELATED: NCAA men’s tournament bracket

SATURDAY’S GAMES

No. 9 FAU vs. No. 3 Kansas State

There is a slight disconnect between what the advanced metrics say (FAU by 1) and the line (Kansas State -2). The last time we saw something like that, the numbers won, as Tennessee beat Duke

FAU doesn’t have a great player, just a lot of good ones. Giancarlo Rosado came off the bench to lead them with 15 points in a late win over Memphis; Johnell Davis went for 29 points in the win over FDU and Michael Forrest scored 11 points against Tennessee after not scoring in the first two games. 

Kansas State is on a charmed run, getting beaten on the defensive glass in every game while still prevailing. Additionally, they have had little bench participation all season (325th in the country), but got 26 points from that unit in the overtime win over Michigan State

I like Kansas State here, but every casual better is going to back them because of Markquis Nowell’s heroics. As long as Nowell’s ankle is OK, the best bet here is to back him in what will be an up-tempo game. 

Pick: Markquis Nowell Over 17.5 points

Pick: Markquis Nowell Over 8.5 assists

No. 4 UConn vs. No. 3 Gonzaga

Nobody has looked as good as the Huskies through three games, with victories by 24, 15 and 23. However, none of those teams had an offense that ranked in the Top 40 efficiency-wise. Meanwhile, Gonzaga has the best offense in the country. 

Yes, UConn is 15-0 in non-Big East games, but the two best offenses in the conference gave the Huskies fits this season. Xavier (seventh in offensive efficiency) went 2-0 against UConn; Marquette (sixth in offense) went 2-1. 

The matchup to watch is the unstoppable Drew Timme (85 points in three games) vs 6-foot-9, 245 pound Adama Sanogo. Timme is the Kevin McHale of college basketball — his low post moves are incredible — and Sanogo will have problems. Of course, Timme will have to work harder defensively, and if the Zags send a double at Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins (10-21 on threes in the tournament) will get open looks. 

The poor Gonzaga free throw shooting terrifies me —  259th in the country — and they were just 9-of-17 against UCLA. Still, when the world goes one way (UConn), I’ll go the other. 

Pick: Gonzaga (+2 at FOX Bet) to lose by fewer than 2 points (or win outright)

SUNDAY’S GAMES

No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 5 San Diego State

I’m pot-committed to Creighton, as I had futures on the Bluejays from April that I wrote about on Fox Sports, and they’re 3-0 ATS in the tournament with an average margin of victory of 9.6. 

The concern here is that this is a massive step-up in class for Creighton as they haven’t faced a top 80 defense in the tournament. Now they go against the rugged Aztecs, who rank fourth in defensive efficiency. 

SDSU took a punch from Alabama – trailing 48-39 with 11:30 left – and then peeled off a 12-0 run they wouldn’t relinquish. Alabama shot 3-for-21 on 3’s (14.3%) as SDSU’s perimeter defense is the third best in the country defending the long ball. Furman shot 6-for-26 from deep (23.1%); Charleston 5-for-24 (20.8%). Creighton’s Baylor Scheierman nailed five by himself against Princeton. 

Creighton split with UConn, an elite 3-point defense, and both times the game went Under. This game terrifies me for Creighton. SDSU is deeper – three games, three different leading scorers – and it is a rematch of last year’s first-round game, when SDSU was in control, Creighton shot 2-for-14 (14.3%) from deep, but the Aztecs collapsed late because of missed free throws and Creighton won in overtime 72-69.

I remember, because I had the Aztecs. Seven-footer Ryan Kalkbrenner had 16 points and 10 assists, and fouled out SDSU center Nathan Mensah. Bluejays guard Ryan Nembhard missed the game with a wrist injury. He struggled against Princeton on Friday after a 30-point effort against Baylor. Lean to Creighton.

PICK: Under 132.5 points (at time of pick) scored by both teams combined at FOX Bet

No. 5 Miami vs. No. 2 Texas

The biggest subplot here is the foot injury suffered by Texas big man Dylan Disu. After scoring 28 points and collecting 10 rebounds in a win over Penn State, he hurt his foot in practice and had to leave the Xavier game after two minutes. 

His inability means more minutes for 23-year-old Christian Bishop, who was more than up for the task, delivering 18 points and nine rebounds off the bench. He started for Creighton two years ago in March. His battle inside with Miami’s Norchad Omier (31 points, 44 rebounds in three games) will be fun. 

Last year in the Elite Eight, Miami led eventual champ Kansas by six at halftime before getting run off the court in the second half (47-15). They shot 3-for-21 from deep (14.3%). 

Texas will have the edge in fans as they played in Kansas City, Mo., two weeks ago in the Big 12 tourney and smoked Kansas by 20 and beat TCU and Oklahoma State. Tough to bet against Miami’s incredible guard play as they led an 89-point effort against Houston – nobody scored 80 against the Cougars this season – and collected 20 offensive rebounds against Indiana. Two unbelievable performances, or just the beginning? With the esteemed Jim Larranaga on the sidelines, I give a strong lean to Miami first half. But it’s tough not to back this potent Texas offense. 

Pick: Texas (-4 at FOX Bet) to win by 4 or more points

Jason McIntyre is a FOX Sports betting analyst, and he also writes about the NFL and NBA Draft. He joined FS1 in 2016 and has appeared on every show on the network. In 2017, McIntyre began producing gambling content on the NFL, college football and NBA for FOX Sports. He had a gambling podcast for FOX, “Coming Up Winners,” in 2018 and 2019. Before arriving at FOX, he created the website The Big Lead, which he sold in 2010.

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