The Kansas Jayhawks took the NCAA Basketball title last year when they defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels. They’re now looking to pick up back-to-back titles with a solid performance in this year’s March Madness, and sportsbooks think they have a shot. They have a lot of the same players that helped them win last season, but the Jayhawks first have to get past the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday.
Razorbacks Wiggle Their Way Forward
The Razorbacks’ regular season wasn’t great, landing in the middle of a Southeastern Conference dominated by Alabama and Texas A&M. However, they’ve already shown they can’t be taken lightly, reaching this second round of March Madness.
In Round One, Arkansas defeated the Illinois Fighting Illini 63-73 in a very close match in which they took advantage of a 10-point lead at halftime. Ricky Council IV was the team’s standout, with a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds.
That scoreline is a near-perfect example of what the Razorbacks have been this season, as they average 74.8 points scored per game and shoot 47.5% from the field. At the same time, their defense averages 67.2 points. allowed.
The great performance of the Jayhawks during the regular round saw them finish at the top of one of the most competitive conferences in the nation, the Big 12. In the end, they held an even 2.0 game lead over their closest rival, the Texas Longhorns, against whom, ironically, they ended up losing to in the conference finals.
However, Kansas recovered quickly and won conclusively in their Round One match at March Madness against Howard Bison by a score of 68-96. Led by Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick, who contributed 20 and 19 points, respectively, Kansas is once again dominating the tournament.
This will be a very close game; however, it’s still difficult to not back the Jayhawks. They have the experienced talent and playbook to take out the Razorbacks.
Tigers Hunt The Cougars
The Houston Cougars, the top seed in the Midwest Region, are one of the main candidates to win top honors in the Big Dance. In the first round, they eliminated the Northern Kentucky Norse, but lost traction in the second period that almost cost them the game.
The Auburn Tigers, for their part, left the Iowa Hawkeyes on the road in a disputed engagement. With that 83-75, they now have a 10-game winning streak in first-round games at March Madness, dating back to the 1980s.
Auburn made 11 of 12 free throws in the final four minutes of the game and kept Iowa out of the game. Johni Broome, with 19 points and 12 rebounds, was largely responsible for the win and for keeping the Hawkeyes from taking over.
Now, an intense battle awaits them. Houston deserves a lot of credit, but they could find themselves without a player who has helped them get this far.
All eyes are on Cougars star Marcus Sasser, who didn’t play in the second half of the Round One game, and his availability for the second round is in question. The team announced that he suffered discomfort in his groin again, an area that was injured at the end of the regular season.
With Marcus Sasser’s presence uncertain, Auburn is in a much better position to win. If he plays, the Tigers would still win, but it would be a much closer game.