Today, we're gearing up for the Elite Eight round. Here are two matchups to watch out for potential March Madness upsets: Purdue vs. Tennessee and UConn vs. Illinois.

Best March Madness Elite Eight Upset Predictions and Bets Today

#1 Purdue vs. #2 Tennessee Prediction and Pick

Tennessee and Purdue are the two teams remaining of the Midwestern bracket after both teams claimed Sweet Sixteen victories, setting up a repeat matchup of their 99-94 OT stunner in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

The Vols finally showed exactly what fans have been hoping for in the 82-75 win over (#3) Creighton, putting it all together for long stretches against high quality competition. The first half was tight and saw several lead changes, with neither team really being able to find a rhythm offensively. The second half was a different story though, as the Vols came out red hot, leading an 18-0 run that saw several threes from Knecht and Ziegler and lock down perimeter defense paired with huge blocks at the rim on the other end. Dalton Knecht found his stride, tallying 24 points on the night, and leading the Volunteers past Creighton to their second Elite Eight appearance in school history.

Purdue is clearly one of the strongest teams left in the tournament, especially after bullying what looked to be a very promising (#5) Gonzaga roster in an 80-68 victory. The million-dollar question is, “What do you do to stop Zach Edey?” So far, no one has an answer. Edey leveraged his towering stature all afternoon, dominating from within the arc with 27 points and grabbing 14 boards along the way. Everyone in the world is aware of what the Boilermakers want to do with Edey, but no one has the personnel to stop him.

If Purdue can get strong perimeter shooting from guys like Braden Smith and Lance Jones, it's hard to imagine how teams can take them down, especially if Kaufman-Renn is making noise in the paint too. But if Tennessee is able to lock down the perimeter like they did against Creighton and force the entire offense to go through Edey, becoming one dimensional, that’s how they can win. Wisconsin actually did this pretty effectively in their 76-75 OT win over Purdue in the Big Ten Semifinal, forcing the Boilermakers’ starting guards to go a collective 8-24 from the field and 2-8 from three. Even still, the Badgers barely scraped out a one-point victory with Edey getting 28 of his own, but the Vols are a much more talented team.

Overall, it's going to be a great matchup and it could easily go either way, but the Vols actually match up pretty well against Edey with a combination of Aidoo and Awaka at Forward and have more talent on the periphery. If Knecht and Ziegler get hot again like they did against Creighton, it's going to be hard to stop.

Ultimately, defense should win this game. The Tennessee moneyline didn’t fail us in the Sweet Sixteen, so I’m taking it again with my first March Madness underdog pick.

The Pick: Tennessee Moneyline (+135)

#1 UConn vs. #3 Illinois Prediction and Pick 

UConn heads into the Elite Eight after steamrolling (#5) San Diego State in the highly anticipated rematch of 2023’s NCAA Championship. The Aztecs were hopeful that things would go their way this time around, but the Huskies toyed with their food in the 30-point drubbing, resulting in an 82-52 final score.

Stephon Castle, Tristen Newton, and Cam Spencer each scored 15+ points in what turned into a routine night for the defending champions. Even when the Huskies aren’t on an incredible shooting run, they can dominate in all aspects of the game, especially on the boards. UConn had 50 rebounds to San Diego State’s 29, including 21 OREBs to the Aztecs’ 12. This is a result of both a great understanding of how to leverage size in order to box out their opponents, but also consistent out-hustling from a high-motor starting five. UConn has been here many times before, and they know exactly what it takes to take down opponents of this caliber.

For Illinois, the win over Iowa State is monumental. Terrence Shannon Jr. was just as advertised, dropping 29 points and icing the game with a steal and fast break dunk to extend the Fighting Illini lead to six with just 24 seconds remaining. Illinois escaped the contest with a 72-69 final score, booking their tickets to the Elite Eight. Fastbreak points off turnovers were the difference, and despite being outshot from three, the Illini converted from close range at a much higher clip.

Now, Illinois faces maybe the most-feared opponent in the entire tournament in UConn. Tasked with taking down a giant, Illinois is going to need a monster performance from Shannon, which means he absolutely cannot get in foul trouble early like he did in the game against Iowa State. Even still, the Huskies are going to do everything in their power to lock down Shannon, which means other guys are going to have to step up for the Illini to have a shot. Favor Connecticut in this one, but Illinois should be their first true test of the tournament.

I’m backing Illinois with the spread to finish off my March Madness upset picks today.

The Pick: Illinois +8.5 (-115)

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