The No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks (21-8, 13-6 Big 12) have just one loss since the Super Bowl (and it came in overtime. They beat one-seeded Baylor by double digits less than a month ago, and they won their first-round matchup of the NCAA tournament by double digits, too. And yet they’re slight underdogs against No. 6 USC (23-7, 16-6 Pac 12) in Monday’s second-round March Madness battle. The Trojans are one of the most physically imposing teams in NCAA Division I.
Free Picks: Kansas Jayhawks vs USC Trojans
Should the Jayhawks feel disrespected, or are the Trojans just that good?
We should all be able to admit by now that the Pac 12 was a better basketball conference than they were given credit for entering the NCAA tournament. Among conferences with multiple representatives, the Pac 12 is the only one to go unbeaten through the first round (they went 5-0, although that includes Oregon’s “no contest” win over VCU).
One of the very best from that conference, sixth-seeded USC, is now positioned as a money line favorite over third-seeded Kansas (-120 at Betway) and a one-point favorite on the point spread (-115 at Betway) on the latest NCAA basketball odds. We’ll use this BetPicks prediction to figure out if the Jayhawks have some value as the underdog, or if UCLA has proven enough to be the rightful favorite.
Admittedly, Kansas’s 93-84 win over No. 14 Eastern Washington was closer than the score might appear. Eastern Washington held a 10-point lead early in the second half and kept up in a tight affair until the Jayhawks went on a 14-2 run with about five minutes remaining. Still, we must credit the Jayhawks for shooting 40% from three-point range, committing only six turnovers and finding a way to turn up the defense late.
Kansas could become stronger in Monday’s game if freshman forward Jalen Wilson (12.1 points, 8.2 rebounds per game) returns from COVID-19 protocols. Wilson hasn’t been officially cleared yet, but he is on track to return, which would be enormous for the Jayhawks.
Whether or not Wilson returns, someone one Kansas will have to figure out how to guard USC’s Evan Mobley. The seven-foot freshman, who is a projected lottery pick, leads a long Trojans team that ranks second in D-I in average height. USC swarms its opponents inside, allowing the second lowest two-point field goal percentage. Offensively, the Trojans are 13th in rebound rate.
There’s still no guarantee that Wilson returns, and even if he does there’s some risk that he’ll be rusty. You know who’s not rusty? Mobley and USC.
- Kansas is 7-2-1 ATS in its past 10 games
- The UNDER has cashed in six of the Jayhawks’ past eight games
- USC is 4-6 ATS in its past 10 games
- The UNDER has cashed in five of the Trojans’ past eight games
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The game college basketball wanted all season has finally came to fruition, will Gonzaga walk away perfect or will Baylor play spoiler?
Mark Few and Gonzaga have the chance to put their Final Four demons behind them with a win over the upset-happy UCLA Bruins and Mick Cronin.
Baylor and Houston, separated by three hours of highway from central to southeast Texas, face each other in Indianapolis on Saturday, April 3 (time to be determined) for a spot in the national championship game.
UCLA has, somewhat luckily, played its way through four NCAA tournament wins and into a regional final matchup with top-ranked Michigan on Tuesday, March 30 at 9:57 p.m. ET.
Jordan Horrobin is a freelance sports journalist based in Toronto, Ontario, who enjoys sports-related research and telling engaging stories. His work can also be found at Sportsnet, Forbes and elsewhere. Though he abandoned most of his team-specific fandoms in the interest of unbiased analysis, Jordan roots hard for his fantasy football/hockey teams (and he's a complete homer for all things Ohio University).