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Our picks for Saturday's elite eight March Madness action

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Last night's games were great fun. UNC faltered and got knocked out after a great Auburn performance and Duke nearly went the same way, struggling to get a victory again. 

Virginia v Purdue

Purdue shouldn’t even be playing tonight. They skated into the Elite Eight on the back of an otherworldly Ryan Cline shooting performance, a blown call at the end of regulation, and Tennessee players dropping like flies in OT. That’s not to say Purdue isn’t a good team – they’re just not at the level of Virginia.

Offensively, Purdue averages more per game but Virginia is more efficient, scoring 1.137 points per possession to the Boilermakers’ 1.127 points per possession. On the season, the Cavaliers are a better shooting team (47.6% to 45.0%), 3-point shooting team (39.6% to 37.1%), and free throw shooting team (74.0% to 71.9%).

Defensively, Virginia torches Purdue. They are 1st in points per game at 54.8, 4th in shooting percentage allowed at 38.1%, 2nd in 3-point percentage allowed at 28.1%, and play at the slowest pace in the country at 62.5 possessions per game. Only 3 teams have cleared 70 against them all season: Duke on a night they shot 61.9% from 3, Duke in Durham, and Maryland in College Park. No team has cleared 60 against them during March Madness.

Virginia hasn’t dazzled thus far in the tournament and Purdue is coming off a huge offensive night. However, Virginia is the better team on both ends of the floor on the season, I’d expect that to continue tonight.

1u - Virginia -4 @ -110

Gonzaga v Texas Tech

Both these teams sport absolutely killer defenses.

Texas Tech is a virtual wall: they’re 3rd in scoring defense (58.7 points allowed per game), 1st in points allowed per possession (0.850), 1st in opponent shooting percentage (36.7%), 11th in opponent 3-point percentage (29.4%), and 10th in forced turnovers per possession (22.6%). So far, no team has cleared 60 against them this tournament – including games in which they held a top-5 scoring team in Buffalo to 58 and allowed the least points ever in an NCAA tournament game (44).

Gonzaga is pretty stout in their own right. The Bulldogs are 27th in scoring defense (64.6 points allowed per game), 5th in points allowed per possession (0.883), 6th in opponent shooting percentage (38.7%), and 19th in opponent 3-point percentage (30.1%). They’ve held teams to under 70 points in 22 of their last 25 games, including twice this tournament.

Gonzaga has shown they can put up points and Texas Tech has an efficient offense, but I expect this game to be more of a defensive struggle. The Bulldogs have the length and the Red Raiders have the defensive prowess to give each other fits. Look for this total to go under.

1u - Under 140 total points @ -110


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