5 Kentucky Wildcats(-6) vs. 9 Kansas St. Wildcats (-6)
The Wildcat region has its second Wildcat matchup of the region, just not the one we thought we would get. Kentucky sits as the favorite remaining in the bracket, a team full of freshman is now the favorites. While they sit as the favorites they can’t loo past a battle tested Big 12 Kansas State team.
Kansas State played the role of midnight on the Cinderella of the tournament UMBC thanks to a Bryce Brown and Xavier Sneed. Leading scorer Dean Wade had to watch as his teammates pulled out a grinding victory over the upstart Retrievers. Kansas State’s perimeter defense will have to repeat its performance of the first round holding down a offensive heavy Creighton team. The purple Wildcats will look to keep the more athletic Kentucky team out of the lane. Their 20th ranked defense will have to play at that level, especially if All-Big12 Selection Dean Wade is still not able to play, Kansas State will be challenged on the offensive end.
The biggest individual reason for Kentucky’s surge has been the rise to prominence of freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. SGA has been a swiss army knife for the young Kentucky squad averaging 18 points 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game during their current win streak. The scary part about this Kentucky team is that he may not even be the best player on the floor, freshman Kevin Knox, a potential lottery pick still has the ability to take over a game at any point.
Kentucky opens this game as a 6 point favorite, with their current hot streak and the potential injury problem for Wade this number makes sense. Wade has come out recently saying barring any setbacks he will play in the Sweet 16. If Wade plays the entire game changes. If he plays I see K-Sate covering the 6 points and even winning outright over a young Kentucky team that has limited range.
Kansas State +6 (Lean Kentucky if Wade can’t play)