March Madness Sunday predictions, odds: Kentucky-Kansas State, Owls

The first four-day marathon of March Madness concludes on Sunday.

We’ve already seen a 15-seed knock off a 2-seed and No. 1 Purdue go down in the East Region to 16-seed FDU.

We are off to a pretty good start.

Sunday will fill the final spots in the Sweet 16. My two preseason futures bets, Creighton (+10000) and Baylor (+1600), will meet.

I’m leaning Baylor there, but for my bets, I went with another game and Final Four futures with some value.

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Kentucky -1.5 over Kansas State (BetMGM)

Betting on Kentucky this year has been a little less painful than banging your head against the wall for two hours.

The Wildcats have been inconsistent all season, but if you look at the last month, Kentucky has shown signs of turning things around.

Kentucky is 6-2 over its last eight games, with both losses coming to Vanderbilt. The six wins aren’t empty either – the Wildcats have wins over NCAA Tournament teams Providence, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Tennessee.

So if you look at Kentucky’s work over the past month, it’s encouraging.

I love Kansas State and I’m a big fan of head coach Jerome Tang.

The team plays hard every night, and Kentucky will have to match Kansas State’s intensity.

However, there are some game edges for Kentucky in the game that are hard to ignore.

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The biggest one is rebounding.

The way to beat Kentucky is to limit second-chance opportunities and make them shoot from the outside.

As Providence found out, Oscar Tshiebwe is an absolute monster.

Tshiebwe finished the first round with a tournament-high 25 rebounds, and he should dominate again Sunday, especially on the offensive boards.

Oscar Tshiebwe
Oscar Tshiebwe

Thanks to Tshiebwe, Kentucky ranks second in offensive rebounding percentage, while a much smaller Kansas State ranks 219th in defensive rebounding percentage.

Kentucky also turns rebounds into points, ranking third in second-chance conversion percentage and fifth in close-range (layups, dunks, tip-ins) field goal percentage, according to Haslametrics.

When Kentucky scores from close range, it’s hard to beat.

The other thing to watch in a close game is that Kansas State really struggles with turnovers and fouling, ranking north of 290th in both categories.

If Kentucky wins the turnover battle and Tshiebwe dominates in the paint, look for it to advance to the Sweet 16.

Florida Atlantic Wins East Region +500 (FanDuel)

One thing some people forget is that you can still bet futures during the tournament.

Sometimes the way a bracket shakes out early opens up value at a particular team. Such is the case with Florida Atlantic.

FAU had a dead-even matchup in the first round against Memphis and, with a win, was likely to face No. 1 seed Purdue.

Well, the Owls won, only they won’t face the Boilermakers after Purdue was shocked by Fairleigh Dickinson.

The big upset gives FAU a likely spot in the Sweet 16. Anything can happen, but the Owls are 12.5-point favorites on Sunday.

Let’s say seeding holds and Florida Atlantic advances; then things get interesting.

FAU’s next game would be against Tennessee, with Kentucky, Kansas State, Marquette or Michigan State next.

While it certainly isn’t an easy road, the Owls actually match up well with all of these teams.

There’s a lot to like about this FAU squad, which ranks in the top 40 in both offensive and defensive efficiency on KenPom.

The Owls shoot well, defend well, rebound well and don’t turn the ball over.

You could argue that they don’t play in a Power 5 conference, but other than that, this team doesn’t have many weaknesses.

If Memphis had hung on and beaten FAU, the odds would have been shorter than +500.

There is some value in the Owls making the Final Four with Purdue out of the picture.

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