March Madness odds are out and tips off this week with a bang, as only a potential historic 16-seed upset in the West Region will keep Kansas from the second round. The Jayhawks will be looking to get back in form after a Big 12 championship game loss. KU faces a Howard team that qualified by winning the MEAC Conference Tournament. The best available college basketball spread has Kansas as a favorite, with Howard a huge longshot to win the game. The game is projected with a total points of , suggesting that market thinks this will be a high scoring 1 vs. 16 matchup.
With the news that Bill Self has been released from hospital and that he’s looking forward to coaching in the tournament, Kansas fans should be ready to celebrate what will hopefully be an easy first game. This game will take place at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday on TBS.
Kansas vs. Howard Odds
Browse the spread, moneyline and totals available at sportsbooks in this table. Getting an extra half point on a point spread, paying less for a moneyline favorite or getting the best number available of a total helps increase your chances of a winning bet.
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Kansas vs. Howard Player Props
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Kansas March Madness Futures
Reasons Kansas Can Cover
20.5 is a low number for a 1 seed, especially against a school ranked 215th in KenPom. This number is deflated because of the frankly bad performance against Texas, but overrating single-game performances is never sensible. With rest and a clear dropoff in opponent quality, Kansas should be fine.
Seventh in adjusted defensive efficiency, the Jayhawks should be able to smother Howard’s 204th ranked offense, which raises questions about whether Kansas even needs a good offensive game to cover this number. Assuming Kansas can score their implied team total of 83 points, they should be able to cover this number.
Reasons Howard Can Cover
Tempo has to be where this case starts – Kansas is 79th in KenPom adjusted tempo and Howard are 99th, both top third in Division I. That means Howard may need to play slower than usual and limit possessions. If that happens, the chances of either an upset or (more likely) Howard covering this game go up. If Howard can limit the number of possessions in this game, then they can maximize the effects of any good fortune, be it a five-minute segment of positive shooting variance, Kansas being unable to hit the broad side of the barn, or good fortune when it comes to ref calls.
Kansas is not a traditional 1-seed by the numbers – the Jayhawks are 9th in KenPom. That’s fine, but not spectacular. This isn’t to say that Howard is competitive to win, but Kansas is not a steamroller.
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Whether Kansas covers this spread really should come down to whether or not they care enough to cover. 20.5 is on the low side for No. 1 versus a No. 16, but it’s also the case that Kansas isn’t, per the metrics, a true 1-seed. Howard is 215th in the nation per KenPom for a reason, and while shooting variance is a thing, this isn’t a case like Virginia five years ago where the form of defense being played has the ability to induce greater variance.
If Kansas wants to show they’re a real contender, they’ll make sure to avoid stupid turnovers and sleepwalking through this game. Best of luck betting Kansas March Madness odds.