Elite Eight Picks: Take Arkansas to cover and win against Duke

Saturday's Elite Eight contests present the two toughest handicaps of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Arkansas earned one of the tournament's best victories on Thursday against Gonzaga and it will play with zero pressure against a Duke side that could be one win away from facing North Carolina in the Final Four.

Houston and Villanova open up the Saturday slate with a contest that should be appealing to the college basketball diehards.

The Cougars and Wildcats are similarly built and the margins between them could be incredibly thin. That makes it a tough game to pick an angle, but I found one that I like after a few minutes of research.

Elite Eight Picks

Overall Record: 31-30-1

Arkansas (+4) and (+146) vs. Duke (8:49 p.m. ET, TBS)

Arkansas is in a great spot as an underdog.

All of the pressure in San Francisco will be on Duke to get Mike Krzyzewski to the Final Four and to potentially set up a Final Four showdown with North Carolina.

Arkansas thrived in the underdog role against Gonzaga and its offense can push Duke's defense to its limits.

The Razorbacks play at the 28th-ranked adjusted tempo and they will put pressure on the Blue Devils to make stops in transition.

JD Notae can push the pace and Jaylin Williams could cause some damage down low against Mark Williams.

Arkansas also ranks better than Duke in free-throw shooting. The Hogs are 47th on KenPom, while Duke is 107th.

The last time Duke felt this much pressure to get a win for Coach K, North Carolina ran all over it and scored 94 points in a win at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Arkansas, at its best, can do the same to the average Duke defense. I think the Razorbacks relish the underdog role and play with no fear against Duke team with all the pressure on it.

Houston vs. Villanova (Over 127) (6:09 p.m. ET, TBS)

I genuinely do not know how this game goes.

My head leans Houston, but the more I look at this game, I think free-throw shooting plays a big role and Villanova ranks first in that category.

Both teams rank in the top 25 in defensive adjusted efficiency, but they also sit in the top 10 in offensive adjusted efficiency.

There is a ton of experience on both rosters from Villanova's last Final Four run in 2018 and Houston's Final Four run last season.

I think the winner of this game has to get to at least 65 points, and likely 70 because both teams are so efficient.

If Villanova gets to the line, it will have the advantage, but I fear Houston's length is going to cause trouble at some stretches.

Both teams will get to 60, and because I think it will be so close, I think we get the push to go over the 127 points.

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