James Tillman: Take Miami in this Elite Eight Matchup
JAMES TILLMAN: TAKE MIAMI IN THIS ELITE EIGHT MATCHUP - Greetings basketball fans. Welcome back to our weekly column where we break down some of the marquee matchups from the weekend’s slate of games.
This week, we will continue to follow the collegiate ranks. Two teams have already punched their ticket to the Final Four as No. 4 UConn cruised to an easy 82-54 win over No. 3 Gonzaga and No. 9 FAU edged No. 3 Kansas State 79-76.
My game of the day features No. 2 Texas Longhorns (29-8) taking on No. 5 seed Miami Hurricanes (28-7). Before we proceed, it is worth noting that several high-seeded teams had been eliminated from the tournament heading into the Elite Eight.
That said, these games can go either way. Despite the topsy-turvy trends we have seen thus far, here is a quick look at how these two teams advanced to the Elite Eight and which team has the edge with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes vs. Texas Longhorns: How Each Team Advanced to The Elite 8
Category Four: Watch Out for the Hurricanes
The fifth-seeded Hurricanes finished the regular with eight wins over their final 10 games.
In the opening round against the No. 12 seed Drake Bulldogs, though, Miami was in danger of an early exit. But that is when the Hurricanes turned up the intensity on defense, scoring the final 10 points of the game (16-1 run overall) to escape with a 63-56 victory.
In the next round, Miami faced the fourth-seeded Indiana Hoosiers. The Hurricanes led by five at the break, but the teams eventually battled to a 49-49 tie in the second half. As was the case in its win over Drake, Miami used another pivotal run to go up 75-60 with 3:23 left to play, en route to an 85-69 victory.
But if anyone thought that Miami’s tournament run was a fluke, the team certainly silenced its critics with an 89-75 win over the top-seeded Houston Cougars on Friday night, advancing to the Elite Eight round for the second straight season.
Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Hurricanes’ defense has limited each opposing team to under 42 percent shooting in their three tournament games.
Steer Clear of the Longhorns
Meanwhile, the Longhorns finished their regular season on a solid note as well, posting seven wins in their final 10 contests.
Texas began its tournament run with an easy 81-61 win over the 15th-seeded Colgate Raiders in the opening round. The Raiders entered the tournament shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. But they managed a pedestrian 3-for-15 effort against the Longhorns’ defense.
In the second round, the 10th-seeded Nittany Lion gave Texas all it can handle. But thanks to a solid effort from Dylan Disu (28 points and 14 rebounds), the Longhorns escaped with a 71-66 victory.
The win over Penn State came at a cost because Disu sustained a foot injury, which was not good news for Texas heading into their matchup against Xavier.
And while Disu played just a couple of minutes, and was relegated to the role of cheerleader, the Longhorns emerged victorious by an 83-71 margin, thanks to a balanced offense in which five players scored in double digits. The good news is Texas has advanced to the Elite Eight round for the first time since 2008. The bad news is they may have to face the Hurricanes without one of their key players.
The projected O/U for this contest opened at 151 total points. That line has moved 149.
The Over is 5-1 for Miami in its last six contests following an against-the-spread win and 4-1 in the team’s last five games following a straight-up win. But the Under is 6-2 in the Hurricanes’ last eight tournament games.
The UNDER is a perfect 6-0 in the Longhorns’ last six games after an ATS win and 7-1 in their last eight games.
The UNDER holds a 6-1 mark in Texas’s last seven games when playing against a team with a winning percentage of more than .600. Miami’s winning percentage is .800.
The UNDER is 5-1 in the Longhorns’ last six games following a straight-up win and holds an identical 5-1 mark in Texas’s last six contests at a neutral venue.
Based on these trends, I am going with the UNDER in this contest.
The Longhorns opened as a consensus 4.5-point favorite. That line has moved slightly to (-4).
Miami has a 21-14 record against the spread. Conversely, Texas is 19-17-1.
The Hurricanes boast a 9-3 record ATS in their last 12 outings against teams with an overall winning record. Texas is 29-8.
Additionally, Miami holds an impressive 37-16-1 record ATS in its last 54 games against teams with a winning percentage of more than .600. The Longhorns’ winning percentage is .784.
Texas is just 5-16 ATS in the last 21 games that they played on a Sunday. And they are 3-11 ATS in their last 15 tournament games.
Given these trends, I will pick Miami to cover the (+4) spread.
Player Prop Bet: Sir’Jabari Rice
Texas guard Sir’Jabari Rice currently has -125 odds of scoring more than 14.5 points in this contest. Although he averaged under the projected points total during the regular season (12.9 points per outing), he has raised his level of play during the NCAA tournament.
In the win over Colgate, he tallied 23 points on 8-for-14 shooting. He followed that up with 13 points against Penn State and 16 points against Xavier, giving him a per-game average of 17.3 points per game on 51.4 percent shooting from the floor.
Taking his recent performances into consideration, I expect him to go OVER the projected 14.5 points total.
Under 149 total points
Miami Hurricanes (+4)
PPB: Sir’Jabari Rice OVER 14.5 points