Howard vs Kansas Odds, Picks: Will Jayhawks Cruise in First Half?
Getty Images. Design by Matt Roembke/Action Network. Pictured from left: Jalen Wilson of Kansas and Elijah Hawkins of Howard.
Howard vs Kansas Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
The Jayhawks will begin their title defense by facing the champions of the MEAC Tournament.
Many doubted the Howard Bison would answer their regular season conference title by earning the automatic bid via a conference title run, yet that's exactly what coach Kenny Blakeney's Bison were able to accomplish.
Howard was able to defeat the betting favorite Norfolk State for the second time in nine days in the MEAC title game.
Howard has not earned an NCAA bid since Christian Laettner led Duke to a national title in 1992. Now, the Bison will have their hands full against a Kansas team that has certainly experienced these nerves before.
One of the top contributors for Howard has a name that would be easily remembered if the Bison were to pull off an unthinkable upset against Kansas.
Shy Odom is a 6-foot-6 freshman who finished the regular season third on his team in scoring and second in rebounding. And if his name sounds familiar, it may be because you've seen a high school highlight of his days playing with LeBron's son Bronny at Sierra Canyon.
Blakeney has been impressive since beginning his head coaching career with Howard in 2020. His team's inauspicious 4-29 record in that first season under his leadership is now a distant memory.
Blakeney has done an impressive job attracting young five-star talents like Odom to play at a smaller school and HBCU like Howard, away from the traditional spotlight.
And once the talent has arrived, he's been able to retain leaders despite the emergence of the transfer portal. Blakeney has already proven an ability to consistently outperform preseason expectations in the MEAC.
Having sufficiently complimented this Howard program, it's time to be realistic. The 22-12 record of the Bison appears respectable at surface level. A deeper dive into Howard's resume reveals concerning flaws.
Simply put, Howard struggles to rise to the level of a more talented opponent. Howard's 12 losses feature "lowlights" against all three top 100 KenPom opponents it's faced thus far this season.
The Bison were soundly defeated by Kentucky in a 32-point loss, then later by Yale by a 46-point final disparity, and finally by VCU in a more respectable 10-point defeat.
Their season turned in a positive direction when they earned their most impressive win of the campaign, a road victory at Harvard — a team that ultimately finished outside the top 150 in KenPom.
It's hard to imagine Howard will hang with Kansas for long. Howard could be a little overwhelmed by the program's first NCAA tournament appearance in more than 20 years.
The Bison don't have enough defensive ability to disrupt Kansas' offensive game plan, nor do they slow the tempo enough to keep Kansas out of transition and play a low-possession contest.
Many may have a sour taste in their mouth when considering Kansas while filling out their respective brackets. The most recent memory of the Jayhawks is an ugly 20-point loss to Texas in the Big 12 Championship.
For Kansas, it was the Jayhawks' second loss to the Longhorns in just over a week.
A deeper dive into the circumstances surrounding Kansas' two losses at the hands of an impressive Texas team helps offer some explanation.
The game Kansas lost in Austin was on Senior Day for Texas, and it immediately followed a Longhorn loss to TCU that sealed the outright Big 12 regular season title for the Jayhawks.
Kansas did not have a ton to play for, and its performance was certainly indicative of a team lacking effort and focus.
The Jayhawks' most recent loss had much less to do with a lack of motivation. They were, however, without their head coach Bill Self, who was hospitalized and unable to attend any of Kansas' three games in the Big 12 Tournament.
And after fighting through pain in wins against West Virginia and Iowa State, Kevin McCullar Jr. was forced to watch his team fall short against Texas in street clothes as back spasms kept him sidelined.
Neither of the above absences would have made up the 20-point margin the Jayhawks would have needed to catch the scorching-hot Longhorns.
Still, Coach Self and McCullar are extremely important to the defensive identity and confidence level Kansas is known for when it's at its best.
With Self and McCullar both expected to be back at practice and prepared to take part in Thursday's contest against Howard, I expect Kansas to quickly flush the loss to Texas down the drain.
The Jayhawks should get a ton of energy from Self's return to the sidelines after he gave the entire program quite a scare last week.
Howard vs Kansas Betting Pick
In what will be the final NCAA tournament run for Big 12 Player of the Year Jalen Wilson and his teammate McCullar, I expect Kansas to look energized and determined early.
The Jayhawks were certainly disappointed to ultimately slot behind Houston on the No. 1 seed S-Curve in the committee's eyes, which costs them a chance to play in Kansas City in the Midwest Regionals should they earn their way into the second weekend.
However, I would expect Kansas and its leadership to use the committee's slight as a chip spurring it to prove even more than it already has.
Look for Kansas to feed off the energy of a pro-Jayhawks crowd in Des Moines and jump on Howard from the start.
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