NCAA Tournament South Region Preview: (2) Kansas Jayhawks vs. (15) Eastern Kentucky Colonels
Betting odds courtesy of Bovada
Kansas is a favorite for bracketeers’ Final Four selections, but the Jayhawks will be playing its first two games of the NCAA tournament without center Joel Embiid, who is recovering from stress fractures in his back. Without Embiid, Kansas fell 94-83 to Iowa State in the Big 12 championship.
College basketball oddsmakers are still predicting Kansas to win big over No. 15 seeded Eastern Kentucky, setting the line 14.5 points in favor of Bill Self’s team.
Eastern Kentucky does have the perpetual wild card in that it is a three-point shooting team. The Colonels also have a senior-heavy roster, but the team isn’t exactly March tested, and Kansas is loaded with five-star talent. Even without Embiid in the lineup, the Jayhawks still have a lot of size that will give EKU problems. And there is also the fact that Andrew Wiggins has really started to come into his own in the latter part of the 2013-14 season.
Wiggins averaged 17.4 points, six rebounds and 1.6 assists this season but has scored 41, 30 and 22 over his last three games while shooting over 50 percent from the floor in two of the three contests. Several NBA teams are considering Wiggins with the first overall draft pick in the 2014 draft, and he could take this chance to further elevate his stock by eviscerating a weak opponent while missing a key starter.
EKU has won seven straight games, and it finished with an 11-5 record in Ohio Valley Conference play. The Colonels are a high scoring team, averaging 79.0 points per game (28th in D-1), and it shoots the three ball really well, hitting 39 percent as a team. Glenn Cosey is the leading scorer at 18.8 points per game, while hitting 42.5 percent from behind the arc.
Cosey had a big game in the 79-73 victory over Belmont on Mar 8, as he hit 8-of-12 from the floor, including 5-of-8 from three, for 23 points, while also picking up five assists. The Colonels have a strong six man group, but extend nine deep into the bench. Six Colonels average eight points per game or better. If EKU gets hot from three point range, which is a distinct possibility, the spread will be covered, though an SU win is highly unlikely, of course.
EKU Trends: UNDER 7-3 in last 10 Friday games; UNDER 11-5 in last 16 non-conf. games
KAN Trends: UNDER 21-5 in last 26 NCAA Tournament games; 2-7 ATS in last 9 non-conf. games.