The Cardinal can win because…
They have size in the paint and will be going up against a Kansas team that has less of it at the moment. Stanford's Dwight Powell and Stefan Nastic really bothered New Mexico's post players on Friday afternoon, with John Gage coming off the bench to get six rebounds himself. Stanford contested just about every shot near the basket, and New Mexico was clearly thrown out of rhythm. Stanford really hopes that Kansas, without center Joel Embiid, will suffer these same kinds of problems on Sunday.
Kansas beat Eastern Kentucky in a tough game on Friday. The Jayhawks needed more than 30 minutes to begin to feel comfortable against the Colonels in a game between a No. 2 seed and a No. 15 seed. Kansas won that game because it had more size and strength than a small Eastern Kentucky team from a one-bid conference, the Ohio Valley. Against Stanford, Kansas will not have that kind of matchup advantage. The Jayhawks will have to play better from the start, and if Stanford can hit three-point shots with some steadiness, Kansas could be in real trouble. Stanford will be very confident for this game after beating New Mexico. The Cardinal will be ready and waiting for their big chance at a season-defining victory.
The Jayhawks can win because…
They didn't play anywhere near their best and were still able to win an NCAA tournament game with a small cushion at the end. It is true that many people will look at Kansas after Friday's win over Eastern Kentucky and see a team that is in trouble. Yet, there is another way to look at this game against a No. 15 seed. Eastern Kentucky was gaining confidence in the second half and was shooting three-pointers well. Kansas was able to endure a 10-0 Eastern Kentucky run and push back with a run of its own. The fact that Kansas received huge contributions from its bench might worry some people about KU's starting five, but on the other hand, if Jamari Traylor and Tarik Black can continue to do really good things for this team when coming off the bench, Kansas will have a new level of depth that will help the Jayhawks against Stanford.
This is a team that could be getting deeper at just the right time in the season, finding the pieces that will enable the Jayhawks to cope without Embiid for one more game. Embiid could be ready for the Sweet 16, so Kansas will be motivated to try to get through this game so that its team member in the paint can play one more game this season.
Outlook & Pick
Kansas will probably struggle again without Embiid. This game should be close enough that the point spread suggests an underdog choice for your NCAA basketball picks. However, Kansas should do just enough to win the game outright.
NCAA Tournament Pick: Stanford +6 at 5Dimes