When Kansas and USC meet in the second round, it will be a rare NCAA Tournament event, with the No. 6 Trojans favored over the No. 3 Jayhawks
USC Trojans vs. Kansas Jayhawks
Monday, March 22, 2021 – 09:40 PM EDT at Hinkle Fieldhouse
It will be a rare 3-6 game when Kansas faces USC in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday night. In the past 22 years of March Madness, No. 3 seeds have advanced to the second round 78 times, to play either a No. 6 or No. 11 seed. The No. 3 team has been favored in 70 of those games.
This year, three of the No. 3’s advanced, but two of them were underdogs in their second-round games. Arkansas was able to win outright over No. 6 Texas Tech on Sunday, while getting two points. On Monday night, Kansas will look to do the same.
The Jayhawks are seeded three lines better than USC, but Kansas is a one-point underdog against the Trojans. The reason is a COVID-19 outbreak on KU that knocked the Jayhawks out of the Big 12 Tournament last week. No. 4 seed Virginia, another team that struggled with COVID in its conference tournament, was bounced by Ohio in its first-round game.
The Jayhawks got a scare from No. 14 seed Eastern Washington on Saturday, trailing most of the first half before rallying late to win 93-84. It was the fourth straight win for Kansas and ninth in the last 10. But it was the struggle, not the result that caught the eyes of sport bettors on Saturday.
USC hasn’t exactly been burning things up, making the Trojans an unlikely favorite over Kansas. In mid-February, the Trojans were 18-3, 12-2 in the Pac-12. They then split their last six games in the regular season and went 1-1 in the Pac-12 Tourney. USC dispatched No. 11 see Drake in its first-round game on Saturday, 72-56.
The Trojans will depend on their defense against Kansas. USC is No. 8 in the country in effective shooting defense and No. 2 in opponents’ shooting percentage on two-pointers. The Trojans held Drake to 29 percent shooting in Saturday’s game.
Meanwhile, on offense, the Trojans shot 50 percent and had 20 assists on 29 made shots.
Kansas has been short-handed with players quarantining after last week’s exposure. Things are starting to look up for the Jayhawks, though.
Big man David McCormack, who tested positive, cleared protocol and arrived in Indianapolis on Friday to join his teammates. He was able to play on Saturday and scored 22 points, helping to key the win over Eastern Washington.
Now Kansas hopes to repeat the story by getting another last-minute reinforcement on Monday.
Freshman Jalen Wilson, the team’s leading rebounder, was forced to miss the opening game due to testing and tracing. He’s expected to arrive in Indy on Monday morning, however and be cleared to play against the Trojans. “If he's here, he's suiting up,” coach Bill Self said. “And I anticipate him getting in the game.”
Don’t expect another McCormick-type performance, however.
“I don’t know how much he’ll play,” Self said. “He's going to be rusty, he's going to be fatigued and he's going to be far less than 100 percent. But he can rebound the ball and do some things, so he may play three minutes, he may play 10 minutes, he may play 15. I don't know.”
The Jayhawks still won’t be out of the woods after Wilson returns. Reserve 6-foot-8 player Tristan Enaruna will still be out. He isn’t eligible to return until Wednesday.
McCormick looked good on Saturday, but by Monday night, the adrenaline from his return will have worn off and he may start to feel the fatigue from missing a week of practice. Wilson’s return at less than full strength could also throw off the team’s chemistry.
Kansas should play better than it did against Eastern Washington, particularly on defense, but USC is also a much tougher foe than Eastern was.
It’s tough make our NCAAB pick against the Jayhawks in March, but USC is stable and healthy, which will go a long way in what’s shaping up to be a tumultuous March.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.