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The NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament field has been dwindled down to just eight teams. And while there is not a true Cinderella team remaining in this mostly “chalky” March, an Elite Eight full of basketball powerhouses is sure to make for some thrilling contests, with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
It's not to say that there weren't some prolific teams being bounced in the Sweet 16, as a pair of two seeds in Michigan and Tennessee each saw their championship hopes crumble on Thursday night and top-seeded North Carolina was eliminated by an Auburn team that drained 17 3s on Friday. But each team left is not devoid of a contender's resume and some benchmark wins that have gotten them this far through the Madness.
Guiding you through every game of the Elite Eight is Bing Predicts, which leverages search, social, and historical statistics to forecast the winners and losers. Read on for Elite Eight predictions.
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Gonzaga vs. Texas Tech
Game time: Sat, 3/30, 4:09 PM EST
Gonzaga is more than deserving of a top seed in this tournament, as they proved by beating each of their opponents thus far by double digits. Even their closest game was a 12-point victory over Baylor and they have their prolific offense to thank for that. Gonzaga enters as the highest-scoring team in Division 1 basketball this season, racking up 88.8 points per game.
Texas Tech's defense is what will make this game interesting. If there is a team that may be able to slow Gonzaga, it's the Red Raiders, who have held each of their opponents under 60 points so far this tournament and are third in the country this year in scoring defense. Something will have to give, but at a neutral site and with the stakes as high as they are in a single elimination tournament, there's no telling if Texas Tech's ferocious defense can rattle Gonzaga enough to see their offense finally stumble.
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Virginia vs. Purdue
Game time: Sat, 3/30, 6:49 PM EST
While Texas Tech's defense is third-best in the country, no team is better at limiting its opponent's scoring than the Virginia Cavaliers. That's due in large part to the Cavaliers' style of play under coach Tony Bennett, who encourages members on his team to take their time in possession and limit their opponents' opportunities. Either way, Virginia—which held its opponents to 55 points per game has served up the best scoring defense in the country for five out of the last six years—is a formidable opponent Purdue ought to be concerned about.
Despite only putting up 61 points in the opening round against 14-seed Old Dominion, Purdue is certainly capable of lighting up the scoreboard. The team followed that somewhat uninspired victory with an 87-61 blowout win over Villanova, and then a 99-point output against Tennessee, one of the best teams in the nation.
Both teams are itching for a chance at the Final Four again, as Virginia and Purdue—successful as they may be—have endured Final Four droughts of 35 and 39 years, respectively.
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Auburn vs. Kentucky
Game time: Sun, 3/31, 2:20 PM EST
Auburn's 97-80 blowout win over North Carolina in the Sweet 16 was fueled by a parade of 3s that ultimately overwhelmed the top-seeded Tar Heels. With that win, there's now an SEC rematch on tap, and the Tigers are hoping that things go much differently this time around against Kentucky.
In the previous two meetings between Bruce Pearl's Auburn and John Calipari's Kentucky, the Wildcats were victorious both times but the narratives were vastly different. In Auburn, it was a tightly contested 82-80 win for Kentucky in January. But when they met in Lexington in February, Kentucky were blowout winners, routing the Tigers 80-53.
Auburn has not lost since falling to Kentucky in that game. Now, Auburn hopes to avoid a season sweep and send yet another world-class program packing in this tournament.
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Duke vs. Michigan State
Game time: Sun, 3/31, 5:05 PM EST
The East region in this tournament has gone just about as planned, and for that, any neutral basketball fan should be thankful. The top two seeds in that region of the bracket will meet in the final Elite Eight game of the weekend, with rosters chock-full of blue bloods.
Duke's near-upsets may be the story of the tournament thus far. The team's narrow escape against #9 seed UCF in the second round left many believing Duke could be vulnerable, despite possessing the game's most dynamic player in Zion Williamson. That thought was only compounded by yet another near-upset against Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16. It was Williamson's supporting cast carrying the load in the 75-73 win over the Hokies, with RJ Barrett scoring 18 points and Tre Jones dropping a career-high 22.
Michigan State was also at the center of another major headline from this tournament when coach Tom Izzo was caught on camera berating Aaron Henry as he left the court. Henry made headlines on Friday night for different reasons. Henry scored a career-high 20 points and led the way for the Spartans in their drubbing of LSU.
It's two storied programs with two of the games best coaches. There's little to separate these two teams and the scoreboard on Sunday may just indicate that.
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