In the second game of Sunday’s eight-game Round of 32 slate, the third-seeded Kansas State Wildcats (+3) find themselves as underdogs against the sixth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats (2:40 p.m. ET, CBS). Sunday marks the first time these two schools will face off in the NCAA Tournament since their Sweet 16 meeting back in ’18, when ninth-seeded Kansas State took down fifth-seeded Kentucky, 61-58.
In its first-round matchup against 14th-seeded Montana State, Kansas State secured a 77-65 victory behind a double-double from lead guard Markquis Nowell (17 points, 14 assists) and an 18-point, eight-rebound effort from Big 12 newcomer of the year, Keyontae Johnson. Kansas State’s offense dominated from two-point territory, sinking 70 percent of its two-point attempts (28-of-40) while scoring an efficient 1.12 points per possession.
Kentucky grinded out a 61-53 first-round win over Providence, with big man Oscar Tshiebwe dominating the glass, corralling the most rebounds (25) in an NCAA Tournament game since 1977 (11 offensive, 14 defensive). On the offensive end of the floor, guard Antonio Reeves knocked in five of his nine three-point attempts, leading Kentucky with a game-high 22 points. John Calipari’s bunch isn’t satisfied just making it past the first round, and although his Wildcats have had their ups and downs, a Round of 32 win over Kansas State gives them a real chance to advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2015.
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Here’s everything to know about betting on Kansas State vs. Kentucky in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, including updated odds, trends, and our prediction for this Round of 32 matchup.
Kansas State vs. Kentucky odds
Odds courtesy of Sports Interaction
Per Sports Interaction, Kentucky sits as a three-point favorite with a moneyline price of -153. Kentucky’s moneyline price gives them an implied win probability of 60.47 percent, which could be surprising to some given Kentucky enters Sunday’s matchup as the higher-seeded team.
- Spread: Kentucky -3 (-110); Kansas State +3 (-110)
- Over/Under: OVER 145.5 (-110); UNDER 145.5 (-110)
- Moneyline: Kentucky -153; Kansas State +128
Three betting trends to watch
— Kansas State sports the nation’s seventh-best cover rate this season, covering in 66.7 percent of games (22-11 ATS).
— Kentucky hasn’t been as friendly to spread bettors this season, entering Sunday’s contest with a 16-17 ATS mark (48.5 percent cover rate).
— Kentucky was one of the better OVER teams in college basketball, with 60.6 percent of their games going OVER the closing total (20-13 O/U).
Kansas State key players
Kansas State took a massive step forward in Jerome Tang’s first season, thanks to two All-Big 12 First Team performers, Nowell and Johnson. The duo’s done basically everything this season, with Johnson averaging 17.7 points per game on 51.9 percent shooting while Nowell chips in with 16.8 points per game on 38.3 percent shooting. Additionally, Johnson’s the team’s leading rebounder (7.1 reb.) while Nowell’s the team’s leading assist man (7.8 ast.). Both players can also space the floor, with Johnson canning 41.1 percent of his triples and Nowell connecting on 35 percent of his three-balls. 6-10 center Nae’Qwan Tomlin’s another key cog, as the Harlem, New York native’s a versatile big who figures to stress Kentucky’s defense due to his ability to create off the dribble.
Kentucky key players
Last season’s Wooden Award winner, Oscar Tshiebwe, is Kentucky’s leading scorer (16.2 ppg) and rebounder (13.5), connecting on 55.8 percent of his field goal attempts. Kentucky’s best NBA prospect is freshman guard Cason Wallace, who chips in with 11.4 points per game on 43.2 percent shooting. Wallace is a reliable two-way player who sports an elite 3.7 steal rate (57th among qualifying players). Their best three-point shooter is Illinois State transfer Antonio Reeves, who’s knocked in 41.4 percent of his triples (79-of-191) and if he’s on his game from deep, Kentucky’s a tough team to take down.
Best individual matchup: Markquis Nowell vs. Cason Wallace
Wallace’s two-way play is needed against the first-team All-Big 12 guard, and Nowell’s a three-level scorer with unlimited range. Nowell’s arguably the best pound-for-pound guard in college basketball at 5-8, 160 pounds, but Wallace’s superior size at 6-4, 193 pounds could cause issues all afternoon long. Nowell’s scoring ability has a larger effect on Kansas State’s success than Wallace’s, so if the freshman sensation can take Nowell out of his rhythm, Kentucky’s got a real shot to advance to the Sweet 16.
Kansas State vs. Kentucky stat to know
Sunday’s matchup features two offenses who play at completely different paces. Kansas State ended Big 12 play sporting the lowest average possession length (16.1 seconds) while Kentucky ranked towards the bottom of the SEC, averaging 18.3 seconds per possession (ninth in SEC). We’ll see if Kansas State can turn this game into a track meet or if Kentucky makes this a half-court grinder.
DeCourcy (Alabama) | Bender (Kansas) | Fagan (Marquette) | Pohnl (Kansas)
Kansas State vs. Kentucky prediction
On a neutral court, these two teams are as close to evens as it gets, so seeing Kentucky priced as three-point favorites is a bit surprising. Obviously, Kentucky’s brand plays a role in their pricing as the favorite, but they do match up well against Kansas State. Kentucky’s ability to limit Nowell and Johnson’s effectiveness while Tshiebwe dominates the paint results in a narrow win for Kentucky. The spread and total does have some correlation, as a game Kentucky wins likely falls UNDER the total, while a game Kansas State wins likely goes UNDER.
Prediction: Kentucky 73, Kansas State 69. Kentucky (-3) covers the spread, with the game going UNDER the total (145.5).
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