No. 1 Kansas and No. 3 Oregon were each sent home following an Elite Eight appearance last season. This year, one will advance to the Final Four. The two clash Saturday night (8:50 p.m. ET) in the Midwest Region final.
Midwest Region Final, Kansas City, Saturday, 8:50 p.m. ET
NAT TV: TBS
Midwest No. 1 Kansas (31-4 SU, 15-18 ATS) routed No. 4 Purdue 98-66 as 5.5-point chalk on Thursday night in the Sweet 16. Naismith Player of the Year candidate Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham dropped 26 points apiece. Head coach Bill Self drew up the perfect blueprint to beat the Big Ten regular-season champion. In addition to forcing the pace, Kansas collapsed the paint regularly to negate the Boilermakers star forward Caleb Swanigan.
“It was one of the best games we’ve played all year,” Self remarked after the win. “The second half was about as complete as we played. We were pretty good at both ends.”
No. 3 Oregon (32-5 SU, 21-14-1 ATS), meanwhile, reached the regional final after knocking off the hottest team in the tournament with a 69-68 victory over No. 7 Michigan on Thursday night. It was once again the Tyler Dorsey show as he 20 points and put in the go-ahead layup in the final minute. Dorsey has put up 20 points or more in six straight games. The Ducks are now 12-5 SU and ATS against non-conference foes in the months of March and April over the last six seasons under head coach Dana Altman.
Kansas is the first team in 21 years to score 90 points or more in the tournament in each of its first three contests. Oregon, though, is one of a handful of teams nationally capable of keeping up. These two are near carbon-copies of one another: athletic, high-scoring and at their best when playing small and in transition. The game may come down to freshman KU Josh Jackson’s matchup with Pac-12 Player of the Year Dillon Brooks, the latter struggling with his shot in recent weeks. Give Brooks the edge due to experience.
The game opened at -6.5 in favor of Kansas, which is a tad high. The win over Michigan is a nice boost for the Ducks after fluttering through the first two rounds with so-so performances. Kansas may come out the winner, but look for Oregon to take it to the wire. Pac-12 programs are 5-1 ATS (3-3 SU) in their last six against Big 12 opponents in March Madness, losing by more than 4 points in one: Oregon’s 80-68 defeat to Oklahoma in last year’s Elite Eight. The Ducks will spread their wings in this one.