Is Saturday’s NCAA Tournament Arkansas vs Kansas matchup an upset in the making? The #8 Razorbacks were dominant in a 73-63 win over Illinois on Thursday, and even though KU also cruised to a win over Howard (96-68) there is a big jump n the quality of competition for the Round of 32.
Another reason the Jayhawks may be concerned is because coach Bill Self remains out following a medical procedure although he is close to returning if the team advances. Kansas is still a -3.5 favorite here, and 54% of the betting public still like the Jayhawks to cover the number although it has dropped a point from the -4.5 open.
Why Arkansas Can Cover +3.5 Points
Illinois was a wildly inconsistent team this season, but they’ve still beaten UCLA and Texas and heading into last weekend were the #2 seed in the Big Ten – and Arkansas absolutely harassed the Fighting Illini on Thursday. The Fighting Illini had 16 turnovers compared to just 10 assists and the Razorbacks only trailed for 1:20 in a tough #8/#9 matchup.
Now Arkansas brings their long – and frankly, annoying – defense into a matchup with the Jayhawks’ who were stifled 76-56 by Texas in the Big 12 Tournament. Kansas’ acting head coach Norm Roberts compared Saturday’s opponent to the Longhorns saying, “Arkansas is big and athletic, just like Texas.”
Arkansas will take the comparison to the #2 seed Texas considering the Longhorns also beat Kansas 75-59 in the regular season finale. Make no mistake the Razorbacks can score too though, with three players going for 12+ in the opening round against Illinois and Arkansas also ranked 33rd in the country shooting 47.5% from the field.
Why Kansas Can Cover -3.5 Points
You don’t get a lot of #1 seeds giving just -3.5 points in their second round matchup but that’s where the Jayhawks are at in the NCAA Tournament Arkansas vs Texas matchup. Some of the point spread being lower has to do with Self’s absence, but Roberts has now been at the helm of the team for 10 days.
There isn’t a ton to take away from the Jayhawks’ opening round win considering the opponent was Howard out of the MEAC and KU was a -21.5 point favorite, but it was still a solid 28-point win. Jalen Wilson had 20 points in the first round and it was a nice opportunity for freshman Gradey Dick to get his first March Madness experience, finishing with a 19/11/5 line.
Arkansas looked good against Illinois, but the Razorbacks also did go on a 4-minute scoring drought in the 2nd half of that game. The Fighting Illini couldn’t capitalize, but Kansas has a much more talented offense that can – plus the Jayhawks defense is 9th in the country in adjusted efficiency so they’ll cause even more headaches for the Razorbacks offense.
Free NCAA Tournament Arkansas vs Kansas Betting Pick
Oddsmakers have the spread for Saturday’s game on point because just a point or two higher and Arkansas is an easy play but this is right where a KU pick has great value. Arkansas comping with Texas really sticks out here, because the Jayhawks have had their struggles with the Longhorns lately.
Free Pick: Arkansas +3.5