Because the NCAA’s enforcement arm has all the authority of an unarmed mall cop on crutches, No. 3 Kansas remains not on probation as it takes on Iowa State tonight as the big game on a slate of 56 D-1 college hoops tip-offs.
The Jayhawks are a Final Four candidate, but there are multiple ways to describe Iowa State; Mediocre? Inconsistent? A one-man team that’s not very talented? But it’s major conference college basketball on a weeknight, so can they pull the upset in Ames?
Game Time/TV Channel/Streaming
Kansas-Iowa State will take place on ESPN+ at 8:00 p.m. EST. If you’re not an ESPN+ subscriber, you can give into the inevitable future of how you’ll watch sports here. Kansas head coach Bill Self isn’t happy about having to pay for it either, and apparently he’s bad at technology.
Point Spread, Totals, Odds, Trends
Spread: Kansas -5 (opened -6.5)
Total: 145.5 (opened 146.5)
Money line: Kansas -210
KU is getting 69% of the handle and 82% of the bets, which means some mildly sharp action seems to be on the Cyclones. But the money line is getting clobbered by Jayhawks backers: they’ve put up 97% of the cash and 93% of the bets on the road team tonight.
Sophomore guard Devon Dotson leads all scorers at 18.5 points per game, and will get to the rim with impunity for Kansas. He leads a team that is very efficient from the floor (56.2 efg%, 5th in NCAA), but is also able to get stops (43.4 opponents efg%, 20th in NCAA). Look for senior center Udoka Azubuike (8.9 rpg) to try and dominate the middle.
They won the Maui Classic, but their path was easier than most (Chaminade, BYU, #15 Dayton) for what is usually the best holiday tournament on the calendar. And against all other ranked opponents, they’re 0-2 straight up with losses to Duke in Brooklyn and Villanova in Philly.
Meanwhile ISU... isn’t good? At all? Don’t let a two-point OT loss to TCU fool you last time out: they got beat by FAMU on their home floor on New Year’s Eve. That’s Florida A&M University, the HBCU with a very cool band and about zero dollars in athletics funding.
Sophomore guard Tyrese Haliburton can really play (17.9 ppg, 7.9 apg, 6.3 rpg), but basketball requires five talented bodies when playing a very good team, even when you’re at home. They’re 7-6 this year straight up and vs. the line, and the only quality win is over Seton Hall at home. The same Seton Hall team they played in the Bahamas and lost to nine days earlier.
The Pick: Kansas -5
Sometimes the sharp trends go against common sense, and this seems to be one of those cases. KU should be able to bottle up Haliburton as well as any team in America, and the secondary weapons just aren’t there for the Cyclones. It’s a rebuilding year for ISU following a conference tournament championship last year, and they simply don’t have the horses to hang in 2020. And that’s even with what will be a raucous crowd in one of college basketball’s sneaky toughest buildings, Hilton Coliseum.
KU is a team that isn’t elite, but beats up on the patsies as well as anyone. Always fear the backdoor cover late, but KU should run away and hide early enough that you’re booking a reasonably comfortable win.
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