NCAA Tournament 2021 Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Kansas vs. Eastern Washington (March 20)
David Purdy/Getty Images. Pictured: David McCormack.
- Updated Kansas vs. Eastern Washington odds list the Jayhawks as a 10-point favorite in their 2021 NCAA Tournament opener.
- The Jayhawks have been hit by COVID-19 recently, but David McCormack should make his return and give them a much-needed lift.
- How does that impact the game? Our staff gives their Kansas vs. Eastern Washington picks and breakdown below.
Kansas vs. Eastern Washington Odds
|Eastern Washington Odds||+10.5|
|Moneyline||-660 / +470|
|Time||Saturday, 1:15 p.m. ET|
Kansas was really starting to play hot at the right time before COVID-19 hit its squad.
The Jayhawks had to bow out of the Big 12 Tournament after a positive COVID-19 test, but they will get their best big man, David McCormack, back after he had to miss the Big 12 Tournament because of COVID-19 protocols.
Kansas won eight of its final nine games of the season, including a huge upset over Baylor. Bill Self has one of the best defenses in the country, but the question with this Kansas team is whether or not its offense will be good enough to make a run.
Eastern Washington went on a path of destruction over the second half of the season, winning 13 of its last 14 games.
The Eagles boast a high-flying offense that loves to push the pace and will try to get Kansas out of its comfort zone. They have a dynamic scorer in Tanner Graves, who will no doubt cause the Jayhawks some problems, but the question remains about whether their defense can handle the Kansas offense.
BJ Cunningham: The reason the Jayhawks took a step backward this season is because of their offense. Kansas ranked 59th in offensive efficiency, which is its lowest since KenPom started tracking efficiency in 2002.
The Jayhawks simply haven’t done anything consistently well on the offensive end. They’re 186th in effective field goal percentage and are hitting less than 34% of their 3-point attempts. The good news is they will get star big man David McCormack back, but big man Jalen Wilson is out because of COVID protocols.
Wilson is the Jayhawks’ best rebounder and, outside of McCormack, Kansas doesn’t have a lot of size, which is crucial because that is one area it had an advantage over Eastern Washington.
Defensively, though, Kansas is one of the best teams in the nation. The Jayhawks led the Big 12 in points per possession allowed at 0.94 and defended the paint at an elite level, allowing only 45.9% from 2-point range and 56.8% on shot attempts at the rim, per Hoop-Math.
Having McCormack back in the lineup is huge because he is an imposing presence in the paint. However, without Wilson the Jayhawks are at a disadvantage because he has the best defensive rebounding rate on the team. It shouldn’t be too big of an issue in the first round, though, as Eastern Washington doesn’t crash the offensive glass at a high level.
Kansas does a great job keeping opposing teams off the foul line (23rd in free-throw rate allowed) and will have to do so here as Eastern Washington shoots 79.9% from the line as a team.
Stuckey: The Big Sky champion Eagles have a crazy good offense, with elite spacing and shooting.
They don’t turn it over and are extremely efficient from 2, 3 and especially the free-throw line (sixth in D-I). They rank in the 97th percentile in half-court offense, per Synergy.
When they’re on, they can go on huge runs, which makes them a scary first-round opponent. EWU does prefer to play at a quick pace (28th in adjusted tempo) and hunt quick open shots.
It also has extreme balance with five players averaging double digits. It doesn’t get many offensive rebounds (277th) as EWU stresses getting back on defense to limit transition opportunities; the Eagles have allowed the 13th-lowest transition rate on the year.
The defense isn’t nearly as elite as the Eagles do lack elite athleticism throughout their rotation, which doesn’t lead to many turnovers but makes them vulnerable against heavy pick-and-roll teams. They rank in just the 11th percentile in PnR defense against opposing ball-handlers, per Synergy.
The Eagles also could be vulnerable against elite post players. They also don’t generate many turnovers, ranking outside the top 300 nationally in that category.
While EWU doesn’t allow many transition opportunities as a result of its lack of offensive rebounding, it is a very good team-defensive rebounding club.
Matchup & Betting Analysis
BJ Cunningham: This is a really interesting matchup given how prolific Eastern Washington offense is against Kansas’ elite defense.
The biggest question mark for Kansas is on offense, which has been its downfall all season. Getting McCormack back is going to be huge for the Jayhawks, who will have a big advantage over the Eagles height-wise.
Jalen Wilson being out for Kansas is going to be a problem along with all of the disruptions, so don’t be surprised if Kansas comes out a little sluggish in this game.
Another big key to this game is the type of pace it will be played at.
Eastern Washington loves to get out and run, as it has the 28th-fastest adjusted tempo in the country, per KenPom. Kansas plays an average tempo compared to the national average, so don’t be surprised if Bill Self slows this game way down and plays through McCormack in the post.
With all of the COVID-19 disruptions, plus not having Wilson — who is worth 1.58 points to the spread — on the floor is going to be a lot for the Jayhawks to overcome.
Additionally, I think Eastern Washington is going to have a very difficult time on the offensive end of the floor seeing its first elite defense since December. So, I think there’s a little bit of value on under 147 points or better.
Pick: Under 147 or better.