Kentucky and Kansas State both won and covered in their first round matchups of the NCAA tournament on Friday to set up their near coin-flip clash in Sunday’s second round.
The two Wildcats will face off against one another for a spot in the second weekend and a chance to play at Madison Square Garden in the East Regional semifinal next Thursday.
Kentucky surged in the final month of the season and entered this tournament a bit underrated.
Meanwhile, many experts considered the No. 3 seed a very favorable one for Kansas State, given its resume and predictive metrics. The betting market agrees with this assessment, given that the higher seed Kansas State is actually the underdog in this matchup.
There are a few matchup problems for KSU to try to overcome, most notably inside against Kentucky big man Oscar Tshiebwe.
It’s been an up-and-down season for last year’s National Player of the Year, but his 25 rebounds on Friday are a sign of how he can dominate games even with just eight points tallied.
Despite the inconsistency throughout the season, Kentucky is playing its best basketball right now, and the market hasn’t quite caught up yet.
Kentucky’s size edge on the glass is the single most important factor in this matchup.
Kansas State wins with its speedy guards and physical wings, but it can’t matchup with John Calipari’s Wildcats on the defensive glass.
Kansas State commits a ton of fouls and it’s unable to consistently grab defensive rebounds. KSU is 293rd nationally in foul rate and 219th nationally in defensive rebounding rate.
Kentucky is above average at getting to the free-throw line and more importantly, it ranks second in the country in offensive rebounding rate.
Kansas State wants to run out in transition whenever possible, and that’s the weaker area of the Kentucky defense.
But if Kansas State head coach Jerome Tang needs to get extra numbers back to prevent getting crushed on the boards, that will limit the Wildcats’ ability to exploit Kentucky in transition.
Kentucky is playing much better in the last month, and it’s gone largely unnoticed because it lost early in the SEC Tournament. Since Feb. 12, a month prior to Selection Sunday, Kentucky is eighth in Bart Torvik adjusted efficiency rating.
The offense is in the top 10, but the Wildcats have also been more engaged defensively and are 25th there.
Once Kansas State was able to build a lead in the second half against Montana State, it was quite difficult for the Bobcats to try to shoot their way back into the game.
Montana State isn’t a good 3-point shooting team and the perimeter is the strength of the KSU defense. Kansas State still allowed 57% on shots from inside the arc, and ShotQuality graded that performance as just a two-point victory.
The Wildcats’ profile in games away from home was pretty weak overall this season. They ranked eighth in Haslametrics ‘away from home metric, which compares home and away showings in a single season.
As a result, the Wildcats had just one away win after Jan. 7 in Big 12 play.
Markquis Nowell is one of the best backcourt creators in the entire country, and the Bobcats didn’t really have the athleticism to stop him from getting anywhere he wanted on the court.
Kentucky has considerably more length and athleticism than the mid-major Bobcats.
Despite its lacking size overall, KSU was well above-average nationally at getting second-chance points and opportunities.
That will not happen often in this matchup against Kentucky, given that UK was the best defensive rebounding team in the SEC.
The more that this game is played in the half-court, the more that the pace favors Kentucky’s length and rebounding edge.
Kansas State will need Nowell and Keyontae Johnson to get in transition often to keep pace with the extra possessions Kentucky is sure to get through Tshiebwe on the offensive glass.
While Kentucky has played its best in the last month, Kansas State is just 38th in efficiency since Feb. 12. Kentucky has better priors, more talent and is playing better of late.
Kentucky has more talent and while Kansas State has massively overachieved in year one under Tang, its run ends on Sunday in Greensboro.
I’d bet Kentucky at -2 or better to book its spot in the Sweet 16.
QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.
How would you rate this article?
This site contains commercial content. We may be compensated for the links provided on this page. The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Action Network makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information given or the outcome of any game or event.
Now, on March 27, 2023, we are just a month away from the 2023 NFL draft—scheduled for Thursday, April 27, 2023 (Round 1). This means that many NFL draft be
A bill to legalize sports wagering, H.B. 347, has garnered
Kids swapping bets the way they once traded baseball cards. A sharp rise in personal financial trouble, and a sharp decline in middle class wealth. And a state
College Basketball is getting ready for the Final Four this weekend, and this year’s version of March Madness has already been packed with great drama and