The Kentucky Wildcats opened this season as the top-ranked team in the land, but their much-hyped freshmen never really jelled.
Ten losses later and on the heels of a recent five-game losing streak against the spread, they're a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament and probably happy to get an invitation.
But Kentucky still seems capable of making a run, and their first challenge comes from another gang of Wildcats—this one from Kansas State. KU was favored in this Midwest Region matchup.
Spread and total points scored betting line
Kentucky opened as four-point favorites, but bettors forced up the spread (to -6) as of Thursday; the total was 134. (Compare lines and consensus on the Odds Shark matchup report.)
Odds Shark computer pick
Why pick Kansas State to cover the spread
These Wildcats are in the tournament for the fifth straight season after going 10-8 to finish fifth in a tough Big 12. No. 9 Kansas State owns victories this season over Gonzaga, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and Iowa State. At least a handful of its defeats were close ones to tournament qualifiers, according to the game logs.
The Wildcats don't shoot the ball too well, but they can play some defense, holding foes to less than 41 percent shooting on the season.
Also, Kansas State has performed well in recent tournament openers, winning and covering four of their last five Big Dance opening-round matches.
Why pick Kentucky to cover the spread
These Wildcats, who missed the tournament last year, are back in after going 12-6 to finish second in the SEC during the regular season, losing to Florida in the conference tournament championship game by a point.
No. 8 Kentucky owns wins this season over Providence, Louisville and Tennessee, and six of its losses came against the Gators (who beat the 'Cats three times), Michigan State, Baylor and North Carolina.
Kentucky is young and talented, starting five freshmen. Defensively, the Wildcats are limiting opponents to 40 percent field-goal percentage.
Smart betting pick
Both of these teams are young, both can struggle at times to throw the ball in the hole, even from the free-throw line, and both play pretty good defense.
This could turn into a tough, possession-by-possession game. And if that's the case, six points might come in handy. Kentucky might have the advantage in talent, but that talent has proved to be erratic. Take the points with Kansas State and bet on Kentucky’s 7-1-1 ATS run in the tournament to stall a bit.
Kansas State Wildcats: No. 168
Kentucky Wildcats: No. 86 (per Odds Shark power ranks)
March Madness betting trends
- UNDER is 8-3 past 11 games when KU is favored
- Kentucky 7-1-1 ATS past nine tournament games
- Kansas State ended year on 2-6 ATS run
- Kansas State 2-8 SU past 10 games as underdogs
- Kansas State is 4-1 ATS past five first-round games