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No upsets happened in the top of the Midwest region and we get two contrasting styles of play with Kansas and Purdue. The Jayhawks continue to win with a small-ball lineup built with guards, while the Boilermakers are led by one of the best big men in the country, Caleb Swanigan. The Jayhawks opened as -4.5 point favorites (now 5) at 5Dimes Sportsbook for the game in Kansas City, just a 45-minute drive from Lawrence.
After seeing what Kansas did to a different Big Ten team in the Round of 32, not many will want to bet against them in what is close to a home game. Josh Jackson came to play in the second round, but he also got the usual help from Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham. But what will matter in this game is how the KU bigs play against Swanigan and Isaac Haas. The Jayhawks did a solid job on Nick Ward last game, but going against Purdue is a different test. Landen Lucas will start early on Swanigan with Carlton Bragg and Dwight Coleby likely forced into action more often than normal.
If Purdue ever goes to its big lineup with Haas, Swanigan and Vincent Edwards at the three, it’s hard to see Kansas sticking with Jackson on Swanigan because he gives up about 50 pounds. Of course, the Jayhawks will probably work on zone a bit because on the other end, Swanigan will have zero chance of keeping up with Jackson, especially if he’s hitting outside shots like he was against Michigan State. The other problem for Purdue will be keeping up with Mason and Graham. Mason can get to the hoop almost whenever he wants, while Graham is the third-best scorer on the team and he’d be the top guy on a lot of other squads.
Winning this game for Purdue will require its backcourt to keep Mason and Graham in check as much as possible. Dakota Mathias will probably see a lot of Jackson and if that doesn’t work, Edwards will see plenty of him as well. The question is whether Kansas can defend Swanigan and Haas down low. Swanigan will be a problem no matter what defense the Jayhawks play, while Haas will have a huge size advantage whenever he’s in the game. But even if they have success, the Boilers will need more production from guys like Vincent and Carsen Edwards. Vincent was great in the first couple games, scoring 21 points in each of them and he’ll likely be defended by either Jackson or Svi Mykhailiuk.
Because of their dominant trio, it’s easy to back the Jayhawks in this one, but as long as Purdue can play mediocre defense against this bunch, Swanigan will have plenty of success himself along with Vincent Edwards. But when it comes down to it, Mason runs the show for the Jayhawks and Purdue has been a hard team to trust in close games this season due to a shaky backcourt. All signs point to another close escape for Mason, Graham and Jackson in the Sweet 16.
Our Pick - Purdue +5
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