NCAA Tournament Bracket 2018: Schedule, Odds and More for Sunday's Elite 8 Games


OMAHA, NE - MARCH 23: Marvin Bagley III #35 of the Duke Blue Devils concentrates at the free throw line against the Syracuse Orange during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at CenturyLink Center on March 23, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

Lance King/Getty Images

Three big-name men’s basketball powers take the court Sunday with two spots in the Final Four on the line.

Despite the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament belonging to Cinderella teams, No. 1 Villanova, No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Duke survived the first three rounds.

The one surprise in the quartet of programs participating in Sunday’s Elite Eight games is No. 3 Texas Tech, which controlled its Sweet 16 showdown with No. 2 Purdue to set up a showdown with Villanova.

The winners of Sunday’s contests will join No. 3 Michigan and No. 11 Loyola of Chicago in San Antonio for the Final Four.

                      

Sunday’s Elite Eight Schedule

Odds via OddsShark.

No. 1 Villanova (-6.5) vs. No. 3 Texas Tech (2:20 p.m., CBS)

No. 1 Kansas (-3) vs. No. 2 Duke (5:05 p.m., CBS)

All Times ET.

                

Contrast of Youth And Experience Highlights Kansas-Duke

Only a few years ago, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski would have scoffed at the thought of using a collection of one-and-done players to reach the Final Four.

The experienced coach, who has fully embraced the concept in recent seasons, leads a squad chock-full of freshmen into battle against a Kansas team that prides itself on experience.

If you take senior guard Grayson Allen out of the equation, all of Duke’s top contributors are underclassmen, with freshman and potential NBA draft lottery pick Marvin Bagley III at the forefront.

Bagley, Wendell Carter Jr., Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval all average more than 10 points per game, while Bagley and Carter have more than nine rebounds per contest.

Although he’s been at Duke for less than a year, Bagley has learned plenty while chasing a championship, per Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News.

“I learned so much since I’ve been here,” Bagley said. “Not only about basketball, but the things you’ve got to do off the court: to be ready, taking care of your body, preparing for games, the hard work you’ve got to put in, to study the other team. Just preparation. So I learned a lot. It’s been a great year. And we’re just trying to continue to go for our goal.”

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Defending a well-rounded lineup like Duke’s is a difficult task for any opponent, but Kansas has the capability to shut down the Blue Devils in a few aspects of the game.

The Jayhawks’ success runs through senior guards Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who experienced heartbreak at this stage of the competition at the hands of Oregon a year ago.

Losing to Oregon last season and to Villanova in the Elite Eight two years ago drove Graham to get back to the Elite Eight, per Mike Lopresti of NCAA.com.

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 23: Devonte' Graham #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks in action against the Clemson Tigers during the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at CenturyLink Center on March 23, 2018 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Lance King/Getty I

Lance King/Getty Images

“I wanted to get back to this game so badly,” Graham said. “I think about it all the time. I just told the guys in the locker room, I’ve been here the last two years, and this year, we’ve gotta get over that hump.”

In the 74-60 defeat to the Ducks, Graham scored three points and failed to convert a field goal in 38 minutes.

Mykhailiuk scored 10 points in 28 minutes, while Lagerald Vick came off the bench to contribute seven points.

Despite facing an incredibly talented team, Self is confident his mix of players will cause Duke problems, per Sam McDowell of the Kansas City Star:

The biggest issue the Jayhawks face comes down low, as Udoka Azubuike, Silvio De Sousa and Mitch Lightfoot try to contain Bagley and Carter.

If Kansas plays strong defense in the paint and uses its past failures as motivation, it could come out on top, but there’s also a chance those factors backfire on the Jayhawks and they succumb to pressure once again.

        

Texas Tech Searching for Upset

The Texas Tech Red Raiders are in uncharted waters, as they reached their first Elite Eight with their victory over Purdue on Friday.

Second-year head coach Chris Beard led the Red Raiders to plenty of success in Big 12 play, where they pushed Kansas for the regular-season title before fading away at the end.

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 17:  Head coach Chris Beard of the Texas Tech Red Raiders calls out instructions in the second half against the Florida Gators during the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at the American Airlines Center on March 17, 2018 in Dall

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

After winning three games in the Big Dance, Texas Tech faces top-seeded Villanova in Boston with a trip to the Final Four up for grabs.

One of the keys to success for Beard has been the relationship he’s built with the players since taking over for Tubby Smith, as senior Justin Gray pointed out, per Nancy Armour of USA Today:

When coach Beard came in here, he made us trusting him a priority. Whether that be anything you needed as far as food or wanting a new place to stay, anything, he was willing to do that for us just to make us feel as comfortable as possible.

“That relationship we created early on made that player-coach relationship special and it just makes me, as well as the other players, want to play for him even more.

With all of the pressure coming into Sunday’s game on Villanova, the Red Raiders should enter TD Garden loose, and if you combine that with their big-game experience from conference play, it could be a dangerous mix.

In Keenan Evans, Zhaire Smith and Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech possesses a trio that has the potential to keep up with Villanova’s Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Phil Booth.

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 23:  Keenan Evans #12 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders is defended by P.J. Thompson #11 of the Purdue Boilermakers during the second half in the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at TD Garden on March 23, 2018 in Boston,

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

But in order to conquer the Wildcats and keep their dream alive, the Red Raiders must overcome a frontcourt disadvantage.

Texas Tech doesn’t have an established paint presence like Bagley or Azubuike, which means it has to pick and choose when to attack the paint.

Villanova faces the same struggle at times, but Omari Spellman is coming off one of the best games of his career, as he scored 18 points and hauled in eight rebounds in the Sweet 16 clash with West Virginia.

The key for Texas Tech, as it is for any team facing Villanova, is to pressure the three-point line and make the Wildcats beat it on dribble penetration.

As long as the Red Raiders are able to absorb the three-point shots that fall and keep the Wildcats from developing a rhythm offensively, the No. 3 seed has a chance to deliver a shock to start Sunday’s play.

                      

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.



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