2021 NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks, Predictions: Kansas vs. USC Betting Preview (March 22)

2021 NCAA Tournament Odds, Picks, Predictions: Kansas vs. USC Betting Preview (March 22) article feature image

Sarah Stier/Getty Images. Pictured: Evan Mobley

  • Don't let their temp numbers fool you -- USC vs. Kansas should be a faster-paced game than expected.
  • Senior college basketball analyst Collin Wilson breaks down this NCAA Tournament matchup.
  • Find out why he's betting this second-round total to go over on Monday night.

Kansas vs. USC Odds

Kansas Odds+1.5
USC Odds-1.5
Moneyline+104 / -124
TimeMonday, 9:40 p.m. ET
Odds as of Sunday and via DraftKings

Kansas has been taking haymakers on and off the court, but the Jayhawks find themselves battling for a shot at the Sweet 16.

COVID-19 struck Kansas before the first round, keeping David McCormack, Jalen Wilson and Tristan Enaruna from traveling with the team. Enaruna is out for the Round of 32 while Wilson is expected back. As for McCormack, he cleared protocols and led the Jayhawks to their first-round victory over a stingy Eastern Washington team — a 14-2 run late in the second half was led by Ochai Agbaji's, Marcus Garrett's and McCormack's combined 63 points.

USC posted another stinker from the free throw line in an opening round win over First Four winner Drake. The Trojans have one of the worst free throw rates in the country, but held a comfortable lead over a Bulldogs team that shot just 29% from the field. Drake won the battle of rebounds and turnovers, but could not convert those wins into points.

Head coach Andy Enfield will now look to get back to the Sweet 16 for first time since leading Florida Gulf Coast in 2013.

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When Kansas Has the Ball

The Jayhawks struggled with an offensive identity most of the season with an even point distribution from 2-pointers, perimeter and free throw shots. Nothing quite stood out through conference play as highly touted JUCO transfer Tyon Grant-Foster hasn't contributed much and Enaruna has not played to seasons past.

That identity has begun to change with McCormack and Agbaji.

OCHAI AGBAJI DROPPED THE HAMMER 🔨@KUHoops | #MarchMadnesspic.twitter.com/xet3RUMkpC

— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 20, 2021

Those offensive weapons will be complimented with the return of Jalen Wilson, ranked 119th nationally in defensive rebounds and 216th in free throw rate. These points will be needed against an elite interior defense of USC led by Evan Mobley. The Trojans are sixth in defensive shot quality and rank second in 2-point defense.

Per Torvik, opponents points per possession of defensive field goal percentage are trending in the wrong direction for USC. This may be an opportunity for Kansas as the Jayhawks have most of their pieces back and clicking at the right time, but a recipe of jump shots instead of rim attacking may be in order against Mobley.

When USC Has the Ball

Similar to the defense, the Trojans excel in play inside the arc. USC has a 2-point distribution of 40th and a shooting percentage in the top 75 within the arc. Ranking second in average height, USC is loaded on the blocks — not just with Mobley at 7-foot but also Chavez Goodwin, Drew Peterson and Isaiah Mobley.

Because of the height, USC is 13th in offensive rebounds and have a generous number of putbacks for points. Kansas' ability to stop the pick and roll is paramount.

Evan Mobley handling in PnR, burst to get to the rim, maintains balance through contact for the and-1 pic.twitter.com/tP8jp3tGZN

— Max Carlin (@maxacarlin) March 20, 2021

The Trojans continue to struggle from the free throw line, shooting 64.5% on the season. Kansas does not foul at a high rate, but may consider that as an option in this game with the ability of Mobley in the open floor.

Do no expect the Trojans to shoot from outside with an attempt rate outside the top 300, as all of their field goal attempts will be an attack of the rim.

Betting Analysis & Pick

One of the statistics hidden for both teams is adjusted tempo — or the mistake that the teams are slow to the basket. USC has a tempo of 239th, but that number rises to 185th on the offensive side of the floor. Kansas played a schedule full of snails, masking an offensive tempo rank of 70th.

But these two teams get up the floor faster than the overall tempo numbers suggest.

Kansas' offensive efficiency numbers have been on the rise as the young roster finds an identity. The Jayhawks may not have a defensive answer for the USC bigs and may revert to fouls in a "hack-a-Mobley' fashion. That strategy got Utah to overtime and Arizona a victory over the Trojans.

The pace in this game is faster than most would expect, and the Jayhawks offense is beginning to cook. A bet on the full game over is required considering the drop in USC opponent points per possession.

Pick: Over 134.5 or better

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