(7) Wichita St. v. (2) Kansas
Time: 5:15 PM ET, TV: CBS
Spread: KAN -2
Betting odds c/o Bovada
Wichita State held on to beat No. 10 seeded Indiana 81-76 after trailing by three points at the half. Kansas won’t allow the Shockers to have any such kind of slow start, though early NCAA basketball odds showed Bill Self’s Jayhawks as just 2-point favorites over the Shockers, a team that, well, shocks, to be cliche as can be. The total for the game is set at 134 and it will air on CBS. It promises to be a very good one.
Wichita State boasts an impressive record seemingly every season, as a result of an ultra weak schedule. Deceiving 28-4 record aside, the Missouri Valley Conference juggernaut will enter its second round matchup with Indiana as 6-point favorites according to college basketball oddsmakers at Bovada. The total is set at 140, and the game will be aired at 2:45 PM ET on CBS.
The Wichita State Shockers rolled through Conference play with 17 straight victories before an inexplicable loss to the Illinois State Redbirds. The Shockers are led by Ron Baker’s 15 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, and he also sees a team-high 32 minutes per night. The 6’3” junior guard has stepped up into the role of a bonafide leader now, increasing his shot attempts from 8.9 last season as a sophomore to a robust 11.3 attempts per game this season.
Baker is a deadly three point shooter, hoisting six per game at a 39.4 percent clip. He’s struggled of late, though. Baker averaged just 11.5 points over the past two contests while shooting 9 of 23 from the field and just 3 of 13 from three-point range. If that cold streak continues, the Indiana Hoosiers could make an attractive bet for those looking for a big moneyline score.
Compounding Baker’s struggles is the fact that the Shockers don’t really excel at any one facet of the game. It ranked 108th in points per game, 108th in rebounds and 102nd in field goal percentage. Really, the one thing that can save this team is likely to sink it. Wichita State boasts a very solid 36.2 percent three-point percentage but it also shoots a woeful 68 percent from the strip. Between a heavy reliance on a struggling shooter, a live and die by the three style, and a team that can’t close games at the line, the makings of an upset are most certainly here.
The No. 2 seeded Kansas Jayhawks are hoping for a better run this season. Last year, the team was without star center Joel Embiid, and it cost the Jayhawks badly, losing its second game of the tournament and putting an early end to an otherwise impressive season. This year, the Jayhawks finished 26-8, but it lost the Big 12 championship to Iowa State, who was just eliminated in opening day action. In fact, Kansas closed the season by losing two of its last four, though all but one was against a ranked opponent (which it won, vs. TCU).
Kansas won its opening game 75-56 against New Mexico State, which was even less close than the 19 point difference may suggest. The Aggies shot just 35 percent from the floor and Kansas held a plus-7 advantage on the glass while shooting 54 percent from the field.
Due to the blowout nature, Self was able to get his entire bench into the game for some minutes, including the guys there just to boost team GPA. This will be the first look at the real Kansas team, and most realize it is a a Final Four threat.
Kansas is an extremely tough rebounding team, and will likely be playing with an injured Perry Ellis, though he did play 23 minutes against NMS while hitting 4 of 10 from the floor. Ellis is dealing with knee issues but the seemingly aged youngster has led the team in scoring with 13.8 points per game, while also leading the way in boards with seven per contest. Ellis’ defensive stats are deceiving too.
While he averages just 1.5 blocks/steals per game, he creates a lot more problems with his quick weak-side rotations. Frank Mason III and Wayne Selden Jr. are also big time talents for a loaded Jayhawks team. Fans need only remember the early season drubbing by Kentucky while Kansas was ranked No. 5 in AP polls to realize just how good the top team is in this tournament.
But it’s hard to bet against Bill Self. KU shoots 37.5 percent from three-point range while hauling in 38 rebounds per game. Mason led the way in assists per game with four, but the Jayhawks were good for just 13 assists per game despite having a plethora of players capable of putting it in the hole. The Jayhawks shoot 44 percent as a team and are pretty decent from the stripe at 72 percent. Ellis has extended his range and is one of six Jayhawks with at least 15 threes this season.
Overall, this would not be any kind of upset if Kansas were to fall. Wichita State is a far better 7 seed than most have been rendered, and the small conference schools continue to astound the unsuspecting. That said, bettors are going to have a difficult time with this game because the teams are far more evenly matched than the casual fan may realize.