No. 8 seed Arkansas outlasted No. 9 seed Illinois in one of the best games of the Round of 64. Now, the Razorbacks will get a chance to ruin brackets across the country when they take on No. 1 seed Kansas.
Tip-off is set for 5:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, and the game will air on CBS. Kansas opened as 3.5-point favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook.
No. 8 Arkansas: 21-13 (8-10 SEC):
First-round result: 73-63 win over Illinois
KenPom rating: 21 Overall, 55 Offense, 13 Defense
NET ranking: 21, (4-10 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Ricky Council IV 16 PPG
Key stat: The Razorbacks have had seven games this year where they’ve blown leads because of 5+ minute scoring droughts. They’re one of the best teams in the country when locked in, but that hasn’t happened as much as head coach Eric Musselman would like.
While Arkansas was never able to put Illinois away, they were also able to weather every counter-punch the Illini threw at them. While the Razorbacks struggled from the field — they shot 38% from the field and 27% from three — they won the rebounding battle and limited Illinois’ interior presence, two things they’ve hung their hat on all year.
While the Razorbacks have five players who average double-figures, Council leads the way despite only shooting 27% from three. The Razorbacks play a gritty, physical style of play that plays well in March.
Eleven of Council’s 18 points against Illinois came from the free-throw line, so it’ll be worth watching if he plays as physically against the Jayhawks, or if he gets the same calls.
No. 1 Kansas: 28-7 (13-5 Big 12):
First-round result: 96-68 win over Howard
KenPom rating: 9 Overall, 25 Offense, 7 Defense
NET ranking: 9, (17-7 VS Quad 1)
Leading scorer: Jalen Wilson 20.1 ppg
Key stat: Freshman Gradey Dick made the most of his first NCAA Tournament action, scoring 19 points and 11 rebounds against the Bison.
Kansas did what it was supposed to do by taking care of Howard with an easy win that was over at halftime. Along with Dick’s double-double, the Jayhawks were led by Wilson’s 20 points. In total, all starters finished in double figures. The Jayhawks played without head coach Bill Self who is out with a health issue, but their win over Howard was a good palate cleanser after the Jayhawks lost in the Big 12 championship game.
Not only is Wilson one of the best scorers in the country, but he’s also one of the best rebounders, and averages 8.4 boards per game.
Dick did a lot of damage against Howard, but it’ll be worth watching to see if he makes as much of an impact against the length of the Razorbacks.
Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook
Point spread: Kansas -3.5
Point total: 143
Moneyline: Kansas -170, Arkansas +145
Against The Spread Pick: Arkansas +3.5
Point total pick: Under 143
Pick to Win: Kansas
This is going to be a defensive slugfest. Arkansas will keep it close due to their talent and length, but Kansas’ depth and scoring prowess will be the deciding factor.