NCAA March Madness: Kansas Jayhawks vs. Arkansas Razorbacks betting preview, odds and predictions
In the 1 vs. 8 matchup in the West region of the NCAA Tournament, the Kansas Jayhawks take on the Arkansas Razorbacks 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 vs. Arkansas
When: Saturday, 5:15 p.m. ET
Where: Des Moines, Iowa
Odds for Kansas vs. Arkansas
Spread: Kansas -4
(Odds accurate as of Thursday, March 16th at 9:00 p.m. ET)
Real-time betting splits at DraftKings Sportsbook
West Region No. 1 Seed Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas is a borderline top-25 team on both ends of the floor when it comes to adjusted efficiency, and the Jayhawks are a top-10 team in VSiN’s Power Ratings. An argument can be made that Bill Self’s group, which happens to have won the NCAA tournament last season, has the best starting five of anybody in the country. And a lot of these Kansas players got to taste a championship last year. That means these players know exactly what it takes to win the biggest games, and that’s a luxury when other teams begin to tighten up. Having Dajuan Harris Jr. at point guard is yet another luxury, as there might not be a better leader in all of college basketball. He’s a great passer that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, and he’s a pest on the defensive end. However, there's a dark cloud hanging over this team with Self currently dealing with health issues.
West Region No. 8 Seed Arkansas Razorbacks
Arkansas has the firepower you need to make a run in the NCAA Tournament, with potential NBA lottery picks Nick Smith Jr. and Anthony Black being extremely tough for opposing guards to cover. Smith is a tremendous transition player that can score from everywhere, while Black puts a lot of pressure on defenses with his ability to get to the rim and make plays for himself or teammates. If somebody can step up and give Arkansas some solid minutes in the paint, the sky's the limit for this program. We didn’t even mention Ricky Council IV, who is the team’s leading scorer. Arkansas is also a top-20 team on the defensive end, which is always nice in March. Davonte Davis is another interesting player for this team. He was actually the X-factor in the Razorbacks' first-round win over the Illinois Fighting Illinois. Davis had 16 points and six boards in that 10-point win.
Kansas vs. Arkansas matchup analysis
This Kansas team is going through a lot now, as head coach Bill Self had to have a heart procedure in the middle of the Big 12 tournament. The legendary Jayhawks coach missed the NCAA tournament opener against Howard, and his players must be feeling emotional about everything that’s happening with him. With that in mind, it’s hard to expect this group to go out and be completely locked in — even though the Jayhawks are the defending national champions and know what it’s like to win this tournament.
On the other side of things, the Razorbacks are playing with nothing to lose right now. This was a team with all sorts of expectations heading into the season, but Arkansas had an up-and-down regular season and isn’t seeded highly because of it. Now, nobody is expecting much of anything from Eric Musselman’s team, and that should allow some of these guys to play a bit more freely. That was certainly the case in a 73-63 win over a solid Illinois Fighting Illini team in the first round. Arkansas jumped Illinois from the start and really never looked like it was in danger of losing.
When it comes to actual on-court talent, there’s not that much that separates Kansas and Arkansas. The Jayhawks undeniably play a better brand of basketball, but the Razorbacks have more future NBA talent on their roster. Arkansas also happens to be a fantastic defensive team, with the Razorbacks being 13th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency. They should be able to really make things difficult on Kansas’ offense here, but will Arkansas be able to execute against a team that’s ranked seventh in adjusted defensive efficiency? That’s the million-dollar question.
Ricky Council IV did his thing against the Fighting Illini last game, scoring 18 points in that contest. But freshmen stars Anthony Black and Nick Smith Jr. were a combined 6 for 22 from the floor in that one, and they’re the two that need to get the job done for Arkansas to pull off this upset. The production from those two has come and gone all year, but there were flashes from both throughout the course of the season. That means that the ability is there, and they’ll be expected to play well in this game. Perhaps Black’s size advantage over Dajuan Harris Jr. will be a factor in this game, as the freshman should be able to use his body to get opportunities for himself at the rim. And defensively, Black’s length could bother Harris a bit.
The one thing that could hold the Razorbacks back in this game is their shooting. Arkansas was 304th in the nation in 3P% this season, and it’s going to take some solid shooting from deep in order to knock off a team of Kansas’ caliber. The Razorbacks attempted only 11 triples against the Fighting Illini, but that type of basketball doesn’t get you far in March. Somebody is going to need to fire away for Arkansas. Defense alone isn’t going to cut it.
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