It’s the Wildcat Invitational on Thursday night in South Region play from Atlanta as No. 5 Kentucky of the SEC – now the clear favorite in the South with all the upsets in the region – takes on No. 9 Kansas State of the Big 12. The winner faces either Nevada or Loyola-Chicago for a trip to the Final Four. The March Madness odds favor Kentucky to win, but in this tournament, anything can happen.
2018 Sweet 16: Kentucky vs. Kansas State March Madness Odds
Why Bet on Kansas State?Why not pick the underdog? Underdogs have been killing it in the South, which is the first region since seeding began in 1979 to not have a single top-four team in the Sweet 16.Kansas State did what No. 1 overall seed Virginia couldn’t do in its 50-43 win over UMBC on Sunday. The Wildcats finished 1-for-12 from the 3-point line and committed 18 turnovers. Yes, they won without Dean Wade, but UMBC failed to score in a significant 10-minute stretch in the second half.But the Wildcats dominated Creighton in the opening round, also without Wade, who is dealing with a foot injury. If Kansas State duplicates Sunday’s effort, however, when it faces Kentucky in the Sweet 16, Bruce Weber’s team will get routed. Wade, a 6-foot-10 all-Big 12 selection, averaged 16.5 points in the regular season. He has missed the past three games overall and thinks he will be ready Thursday. KSU needs him against Kentucky, which features a much bigger frontcourt than either Creighton or UMBC.“I am like 98 percent sure I will play. I don’t know if they can keep me out of this one. This is big time,” Wade said Monday. “I’m excited. It gives me another couple of days to heal. I am starting to feel a lot better. My day-by-day gets a lot better. This gives me a few more days to heal and recover.”
Who Made the Big Plays vs. UMBC?When K-State needed big plays made down the stretch against UMBC, Xavier Sneed was the man who provided them. The sophomore, who led or tied for the team lead in steals (4), rebounds (7), assists (2) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1-to-1), scored six of his eight points in the final five minutes of the game. With five minutes to play and K-State clinging to a one-point lead, Sneed was 1-of-6 from the field.Barry Brown led K-State with 18 points. The Wildcats defense forced 17 turnovers, including 13 steals, which ties a program-high in an NCAA Tournament game. K-State previously recorded 13 steals against Arkansas on May 6, 1980. Offensively, K-State shot 40.9 percent (18-of-44) from the field, while scoring 30 of their 50 points in the paint.The appearance will be the 17th time in program history K-State has reached the Sweet 16, and their first bid since 2010. K-State also improved to 36-33 in tournament history, including a 7-5 record in the second round.
Why Bet on Kentucky?These Cats are clearly the most talented team left in the South. UK edged another Wildcats team, Davidson, in Round 1 and then clobbered Buffalo – which had clobbered Arizona in Round 1 – 95-75. Kentucky (26-10) shot 56.3 percent and scored their third-most points of the season. The Cats scored 1.28 points per possession, their fourth most of the season, and 44 points in the paint, including eight dunks and 13 layups.Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 27 points on 10-for-12 shooting. With Hamidou Diallo (22 points and eight rebounds) and Wenyen Gabriel (16 points and 12 rebounds) also playing well, UK was finally able to wrest permanent control away from the Bulls. The Cats closed the game by outscoring Buffalo 23-8.Kentucky made seven 3-pointers, one game after failing to make a 3 for the first time in 1,047-consecutive games, which was the NCAA record. Kentucky limited Buffalo to 38.8 percent from the field. UK is now 169-14 under John Calipari when keeping the opponent under 40 percent from the field. It shot 56.3 percent from the field and is 14-1 this season when the Wildcats make at least half their shots.
How Well Has Kentucky Done With Their Coach?Kentucky is 28-6 in NCAA Tournament games under Calipari. Kentucky has reached the Sweet 16 for the 26th time since 1975 (the first year that all teams in the tournament were required to win at least one game to advance to the Sweet 16), the second-most appearances. In Calipari’s eight NCAA Tournament appearances with Kentucky, the Wildcats have reached the Sweet 16 on seven occasions.Gilgeous-Alexander is elevating his play at the right time, as is Kevin Knox, who is contributing to the Wildcats’ dominance in the paint. With higher seeds Virginia and Tennessee already eliminated in the region, Kentucky could reach the Final FourKentucky and Kansas State last faced off in 2014, when UK won 56-49 to kick off a memorable run to the national championship game. UK has a 9-0 all-time record against Kansas State.
Latest March Madness Odds Trends
- K-State is 2-5 ATS in their last 7 NCAA Tournament games.
- K-State is 2-6 ATS in their last 8 neutral site games.
- K-State Wildcats are 1-3-1 ATS in their last 5 vs. Southeastern.
- UK is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games following a ATS win.
- UK is 4-0 ATS in their last 4 non-conference games.
- Kentucky Wildcats is 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record.