The two No. 1 seeds left standing in this year's tournament have real tests on their hands on Friday night.
The two No. 1 seeds still alive in the 2018 NCAA tournament, Villanova and Kansas, both had a relatively easy time making it to the Sweet 16 in the East and Midwest Regions, respectively, but their roads get much more difficult on Friday as they face their toughest tests versus a pair of No. 5 seeds on equally impressive runs so far, both of which have gone 2–0 against the spread in emphatic fashion.
The Jayhawks tip off Friday’s Sweet 16 action when they take on Clemson at CenturyLink Center in Omaha. Kansas is listed as a five-point betting favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com after beating eighth-seeded Seton Hall 83–79 on Saturday, failing to cover an identical spread. The Pirates hit a three-pointer with two seconds remaining to cover. A day later, Clemson crushed fourth-seeded Auburn 84–53 as 1.5-point underdogs to advance.
The Wildcats will then battle the West Virginia Mountaineers 20 minutes later as 5.5-point betting favorites at TD Garden in Boston. Villanova has won its first two games of the tournament by an average of nearly 25 points, using a combination of strong offense (84 points per game) and stingy defense (59.5 points allowed per game). West Virginia has followed suit, winning by an average of 20 points (89.5 points scored, 69.5 points allowed per game).
The underdogs might be worth a look in each of the first two games, as the Tigers have covered the spread in four straight games while the Mountaineers are 4–1 in their last five, according to the OddsShark College Basketball Database. Friday’s late games are much different situations, with the biggest and smallest point spreads of the day.
No. 2 seed Duke remains one of the top contenders to win it all as it gets set to meet No. 11 seed Syracuse as a 11.5-point favorite. The Blue Devils routed the Orange 60–44 a month ago as 13.5-point home favorites, ending a two-game skid straight up and against the spread in the series between the ACC schools. Syracuse will be playing its fourth game of the tournament, having advanced through to the second weekend as a First Four participant.
Later, East Region No. 3 seed Texas Tech will try to pull off a small upset of No. 2 seed Purdue as 1.5-point underdogs. The Boilermakers are still expected to be without injured center Isaac Haas, who suffered a fractured elbow in an opening-round blowout of Cal State-Fullerton. The Red Raiders are coming off a cover as 1.5-point favorites in a 69–66 win over sixth-seeded Florida after going 0-7-1 ATS in their previous eight outings.