Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
- 3-seed Kansas is a 10.5-point favorite over 14-seed Eastern Washington in West Region First Round Action on Saturday (March 20th, 1:15 pm ET)
- The Jayhawks had to withdraw from the Big 12 Tournament due to a positive COVID test, and will be without third leading scorer Jalen Wilson
- See below for analysis, odds and a betting prediction
Kansas looked like a serious threat to win the Big 12 Conference Tournament coming down the stretch this season, but a positive COVID test ahead of the Big 12 semifinal squashed that dream.
Now, a shorthanded Jayhawks team travels to Indianapolis to face Eastern Washington on Saturday (March 20, 1:15 pm ET), in First Round action at the NCAA Tournament.
Eastern Washington vs Kansas Odds
|Eastern Washington Eagles||+10.5 (-110)||+480||Over 147.5 (-106)|
|Kansas Jayhawks||-10.5 (-110)||-650||Under 147.5 (-116)|
Odds as of March 17th at FanDuel.
Kansas is currently a 10.5-point favorite, in a game that features a total of 147.5. The Jayhawks, the West Region’s 3-seed, won eight of nine games before having to withdraw from the conference tournament, and will be missing multiple players versus the 14th seeded Eagles.
2021 NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship Odds Tracker
Kansas’ COVID Conundrum
Bill Self’s team won’t have either small forward Jalen Wilson or reserve guard Tristan Enaruna in the lineup on Saturday, Wilson, the Jayhawks’ third leading scorer, should be available for the Second Round, if Kansas advances, while Enaruna won’t be eligible to rejoin the team until the Sweet Sixteen.
Bill Self says Tristan Enaruna tested positive earlier this week. Will not make trip. David McCormack will be in uniform on Saturday. Could have Jalen Wilson back on Monday if KU makes it.
— CJ Moore (@CJMooreHoops) March 17, 2021
The good news is that second leading scorer David McCormack will be back. Kansas ranks 125th nationally in points per game, and 185th in field-goal percentage, and would be hard pressed to produce without two of its top-three scorers.
Thanks to their underwhelming offense, the Jayhawks have been forced to win with their defense this season. They rank sixth in adjusted defensive efficiency (per KenPom) and held eight of their final nine opponents to 66 points or less.
𝖶𝖤 𝖩𝖴𝖲𝖳 𝖦𝖮𝖳 𝖡𝖤𝖳𝖳𝖤𝖱 💪#MarchMadness x #KUbball pic.twitter.com/rfysCZC469
— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) March 17, 2021
Big production from the defense will be needed on Saturday, as the Eastern Washington offense is a dangerous unit.
Eagles Let It Fly
The Eagles meanwhile, won 13 of their final 14 games, a run that culminated with their first Big Sky title since 2015. They posted double-digit wins in the semifinal and final, beating Montana State to claim the crown.
About Last Night..
🪜 ➡️✂️➡️ 🏆 pic.twitter.com/0fQYLBTnye
— EWU MBB (@EWUMBB) March 14, 2021
Center Tanner Groves leads the team offensively, averaging 16.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, and is one of four players on the roster who averages in double-figures. Groves’ brother Jacob is also a factor, averaging 8.7 points and 4 rebounds per outing, and led the team in scoring in the conference championship game.
The Eagles were first in the Big Sky in points, while ranking second in field-goal percentage and three-point efficiency. Defensively, they surrendered 72.4 points per night in league play, but did lead the conference in defensive rebounding, while holding enemy shooters to 42.3% from the field.
Take The Points
Eastern Washington were ATS crushers in 2020-21. They finished 12-6 against the number in Big Sky play, including 8-2 ATS in their final 10 outings. They also found success out of conference. They were 3-1 ATS against top-100 teams, posting covers against Arizona, St. Mary’s and Washington State. Groves is a serious threat in the middle, and the balanced scoring the Eagles bring to the table should keep them in this game, even against an elite defense.
This is March. #GoEags pic.twitter.com/5I67OLrxzW
— EWU MBB (@EWUMBB) March 15, 2021
Kansas on the other hand, were 14-12-1 ATS this season. Given their offensive limitations and reduced roster, no one should be surprised if they struggle to pull away.
Putting them on upset alert would be overblown, however, Eastern Washington can certainly cover this double-digit number.
Pick: Eastern Washington Eagles +10.5 (-110)
Chris began his career at Hockey Night in Canada over 15 years ago. He has since worked at TSN for over 12 years as a writer, line-up producer, field producer, newsroom supervisor for Sportscentre, and presently as a promotions producer.