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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Syracuse is on another deep run into March as a double digit seed, they will need to get through Houston to punch their ticket to the Elite Eight.
UCLA, the only team with three wins already in the NCAA tournament, battles Alabama, winners in 11 of their past 12, on Sunday, March 28 at 7:15 p.m. ET in the Sweet 16.
Arkansas is supposed to be here. Oral Roberts isn’t. But on Saturday, March 27 at 7:25 p.m. ET, these teams will meet in the third round of the NCAA tournament.
USC and Oregon meet on Sunday, March 28 at 9:45 p.m. ET in the third round of the NCAA tournament. It’ll be their second matchup this season, albeit the previous one is well in the rearview mirror.
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).