Tournament Free Picks - Saturday (3/17/18)
FREE PICK: Seton Hall +5 vs. Kansas (Covers 53.8%)
Potentially lost during Pennsylvania's first-half lead over No. 1-seed Kansas Thursday afternoon was Udoka Azubuike's cameo. While the Jayhawks' big man only played three minutes, it was his first action since missing the entire Big 12 conference tournament due to MCL strain. He posted a rebound and steal in the limited action, which is a far cry from the team-best 6.9 rebounds per game he pulled down for Kansas this season. Without him on the floor, their leading rebounder averages fewer than five boards per game. Ahead of Saturday's show down with Seton Hall, Azubuike's availability is definitely something to monitor.
According to KenPom, the Pirates ranked 28th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (OR%) – a measure of possible rebounds hauled in by the offense and one of their "four factors" they use to quantify a team's efficiency. Seton Hall's 34.1 OR% is well-ahead of 168th-ranked Kansas, who check in at 28.9%. What's worse is on the defensive end where the Jayhawks currently rank 280th out of 351 D-I teams) in defensive rebounding rate. KU's opposition owns a 31.2% offensive rebounding rate.
Against first-round opponent North Carolina State, who rank 307th in OppOR%, the Pirates ripped down 11 offensive rebounds. They also posted double-digit rebounds in two of their final three games before the start of the tournament. Leading rebounder Angel Delgado is averaging 11.3 rebounds per game over the past seven contests. Remember, without Azubuike, the Jayhawks' leading rebounder averages fewer than five.
Despite another Big 12 championship win, it's worth noting that without Azu', Kansas allowed 17 (!) offensive rebounds to West Virginia in the conference title game.
According to 50,000 games played by our simulation engine at PredictionMachine.com, Kansas wins straight up 60.9% of the time by an average score of 78.6 – 75.8, while Seton Hall covers the 5-point spread 53.8% of the time, which would justify a $15 wager for an average $50 bettor. The O/U 154.5 points is NO PLAY.