NCAA Tournament Survivor Guide For the Elite Eight (Sunday)

Mar 27, 2022 - 10:37 PM

If you competed in an NCAA Tournament survivor pool this year, you picked an incredible year to do so. This year’s NCAA Tournament had multiple massive upsets in each round. Thus, avoiding such upsets and keeping enough teams available to choose from made this one of the most challenging years for survivor pool contestants in recent memory. Saint Peter’s run alone as the first-ever No. 15 seed to advance to the Elite Eight likely knocked many out of their survivor pools or threw a massive wrench into the plans of those contestants who are still alive.

With just one set of games remaining until the Final Four, the end of your NCAA survivor pools is near. By now, you are down to just a handful of teams left to choose from, so hopefully, you have navigated a path that allows you to make it to the national championship game. However, if you have not and face a dead end with not having any teams left to choose from after this round, your strategy should shift to simply outlasting all your competitors.

Those varying strategies are on full display with Sunday’s window of games. If you have both Kansas and North Carolina available, save whatever team you think is more likely to reach the national championship game and use the other. We discuss our thoughts on that specific plan in this column.

As we have done since the Round of 32, we rank all games in order of most confidence to least confidence and provide a short narrative for each.

Here is a list of odds for all the favorites to win their Elite 8 matchups on Sunday (odds courtesy of BettingPros consensus).

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Best Picks in Order of Most-to-Least Confidence

Kansas -275

Let us start by saying that despite both Kansas and North Carolina being at least six-point favorites, both Miami and Saint Peter’s are capable of upsets. However, when deciding which favorite we are most confident in, we give the nod to Kansas.

Kansas did not inspire much confidence in its hard-fought 66-61 victory over Providence. However, the Jayhawks did show that they do not have to rely on Ochai Agbaji to win games, as the Friars held him to a season-low five points. In fact, the trio of Agbaji, Christian Braun, and David McCormack (three of Kansas’ four leading scorers) combined for just 19 points, yet the Jayhawks were still able to grind their way to a win. A big reason for that was the play of Remy Martin, who has had his two highest-scoring totals of the season (20 and 23 points) in the last two games. His return to health has given the Kansas offense an added dimension and provides another scoring option that the Jayhawks did not have for much of the regular season.

Kansas will have to defend better against Miami than it did in the second half against Providence. The Jayhawks allowed 44 second-half points, but backing Kansas here comes with the assumption they will not struggle as much offensively today.

North Carolina -400

The Tar Heels are the bigger of the two favorites today, but we want no part of opposing the Cinderella Saint Peter’s Peacocks. We have to dismiss the notion that the Peacocks are a No. 15 seed, as any team that can beat Kentucky, Murray State, and Purdue is a formidable opponent. The longer Saint Peter’s hangs around in games, the more confidence they seem to play with, while its higher-seeded opponents have wilted under the same pressure. The Peacocks will likely have overwhelming support from the crowd in Philadelphia, as their campus is less than a two-hour drive away.

Saint Peter’s is a surprisingly deep team for a No. 15 seed, as ten players saw action against Purdue. That allows the Peacocks to play aggressively defensively and not worry about foul trouble, and their physical style of play has given their first three opponents fits.

Depending on what teams you have left available at this stage of the competition, you may be forced to pick the Tar Heels in this round. And with North Carolina likely underdogs in a potential Final Four or national championship, they may be the smarter pick as well. However, if given a choice between Kansas and North Carolina, we have more confidence in the Jayhawks because we are terrified of the Peacocks making history again.

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Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.

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