NCAA March Madness: Kansas State Wildcats vs. Kentucky Wildcats betting preview, odds and predictions
In the 3 vs. 6 matchup in the East region of the NCAA Tournament, the Kansas State Wildcats take on the Kentucky Wildcats with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line. All tournament long, VSiN will be providing you with March Madness betting odds, in-depth team analysis and expert college basketball picks. Make us your one-stop shop for all of your betting needs.
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How to watch Kansas State vs. Kentucky
When: Sunday, 2:40 p.m. ET
Where: Greensboro, North Carolina
Odds for Kansas State vs. Kentucky
Spread: Kentucky -1
(Odds accurate as of Friday, March 17th at 11:30 p.m. ET)
Real-time betting splits at DraftKings Sportsbook
East Region No. 3 Seed Kansas State Wildcats
Kansas State beat some very good teams this season, as the Wildcats scored wins over the Texas Longhorns, Baylor Bears and Kansas Jayhawks during the regular season. This Kansas State team is elite on the defensive end, but it can also be tricky to stop on offense. The Wildcats play at a relatively fast pace and have two really impressive offensive players in Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell. Nowell is one of the best point guards in the nation, and he gives his team a chance to win any close game. The Wildcats will just need somebody to step up and be the third option in the tournament. Keep an eye on do-it-all forward Nae’Qwan Tomlin, who has the talent to break out in March. He had 13 points in a first-round win over the Montana State Bobcats.
East Region No. 6 Seed Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky feels like a team that is being overlooked a bit heading in this tournament. The Wildcats got off to a slow start to the year, but they ended up getting hot down the stretch. And while John Calipari’s teams aren’t always consistent offensively, this year’s team has some juice on that end of the floor. Freshman Cason Wallace is unstoppable when he gets downhill and starts going toward the basket, and Oscar Tshiebwe is a monster in the paint. The Wildcats also happen to have some capable outside shooters, which isn’t always the case for this program. If Kentucky can improve a bit defensively when it matters most, the Wildcats could end up being a true contender. They certainly played that end of the floor well in the first round, as they held the Providence Friars to 53 points on 36.2% shooting.
Kansas State vs. Kentucky matchup analysis
Only one spot separates these two teams in KenPom's adjusted efficiency margin, as Kansas State is 23rd and Kentucky is 24th. However, from February 1st on, Kentucky was 15th in the nation in Bart Torvik's adjusted efficiency rankings — with the team being 10th in offense in that span. Meanwhile, Kansas State was down at 27th on the list after that date, and the team's offense really fell off a cliff over the last few months. Jerome Tang's team was 49th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency over the course of the entire season, but the group is down at 95th since February 1st.
Kansas State undoubtedly plays fantastic defense this year, but Kentucky can always defend in March. But which of these teams is more likely to score in crunch time: the Big 12's Wildcats or the SEC's Wildcats? We're going with the latter.
One thing that seems crucial when looking at this matchup is that Kansas State was just 4-7 away from home this year. That means that the team was 16-1 when playing at home. And while that's impressive, it doesn't exactly bode well when it comes to tournament play. Meanwhile, Kentucky was 6-4 when playing on the road this season, and we know that we can trust a John Calipari team in March. The results haven't been perfect in recent years, but he is a constant presence at this point in the season. For Tang, this is his first rodeo as a head coach.
It also wouldn't be surprising if Kentucky just dominated this game on the boards. Thanks in large part to Oscar Tshiebwe, Calipari's team was second in the nation in offensive rebound rate and 53rd in defensive rebound rate according to Bart Torvik. Meanwhile, Kansas State was ranked 96th and 218th in those categories, respectively. That's a little hard to ignore, as it means that Kentucky will be the team getting second chances — while also preventing Kansas State from getting its own.
Kentucky also happens to have the most talented player on the court in this game, as Cason Wallace in an absolute star. When all else fails, Kentucky will be able to give him the rock and let him make something happen.
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