The third-seeded Kansas Jayhawks open up NCAA Tournament action on Saturday afternoon when they take on No. 14 seed Eastern Washington. KU’s Big 12 Tournament run was cut short after a handful of positive COVID tests. The Jayhawks will be without the services of Jalen Wilson for Saturday’s game, but they do regain David McCormack, who missed the Big 12 tournament due to COVID. Eastern Washington comes in with a record of 16-7 and champions of the Big Sky conference. EWU can shoot, as they shoot 35.4 percent from distance this season. This season, 40 percent of the Eagles’ shots have been three pointers — good enough for top 100 nationally. They have played three Power Five opponents this season (Oregon, Washington State and Arizona) and went 0-3 in those contests.
- Saturday, March 20, 2021, 8:30 PM CDT
- Indiana Farmers Coliseum – Indianapolis, Ind.
- TBS or March Madness Live app
- Kansas is making its 49th NCAA Tournament appearance and has a 108-47 record in the event. The Jayhawks have advanced to 31 Sweet 16 contests, 15 Final Fours and three of their five national championships have been in NCAA Championship format (1952, 1988, 2008).
- Kansas’ 31-consecutive NCAA Championship appearances, beginning in 1990, is the longest active streak and the longest consecutive in NCAA tourney appearances history.
- Since seeding in the NCAA Tournament began in 1979, this is the fifth time Kansas entered the event a No. 3 seed. KU was also a No. 3 seed in 1985, 1991, 2005 and 2009. The Jayhawks are 8-4 all-time as a No. 3 seed.
- This year marks the 21st-straight season that the Jayhawks have earned a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament.
- Kansas has won 20 or more games for 32 consecutive seasons, which includes 2020-21 and is the longest active streak in the NCAA. The streak began in 1989-90.
- Kansas’ 15 Quadrant 1 games played in 2020-21 are tied for the most in the Big 12 with Kansas State. KU is 7-8 versus Quadrant 1 teams, 3-0 vs. Q2, 4-0 vs. Q3, 5-0 vs. Q4.
- This season, Kansas has faced nine different teams in the 2021 NCAA Tournament field with a combined record of 8-8.
Eagles to Watch
Tanner Groves – 6’9”, junior, forward
Groves has enjoyed a breakout season this year. After playing just 10.1 MPG and averaging 5.4 PPG a year ago, he’s more than doubled those numbers as he’s averaging 26.1 MPG and 16.1 PPG this season. In the Big Sky Championship game. Groves went for 14 points and 14 rebounds. Almost 60 percent of his shots have come at the rim this season, but he can step away from the basket and shoot the three, as he’s shooting 32 percent from distance this season. Jalen Wilson would have been a good matchup here, but someone will have to step up for the Jayhawks.
Tyler Robertson – 6’6”, sophomore, guard
Similar to Groves, Robertson has had a breakout season as well. As a freshman last year, he averaged just 8 MPG and 2.2 PPG and this year is playing 25.6 MPG and is third on the team at 11.3 PPG. The Aussie native is a dangerous outside shooter, shooting 38 percent from three this season. He has been held in check over the last six games, as he’s been in single digits in four of those games. He has a couple of 20-point performances this season and went 5-7 from three vs. Saint Mary’s back on December 15th.
Jayhawk Pick to Click
Ochai Agbaji – 6’5”, junior, guard
Agbaji went off in KU’s Big 12 Tournament win for 32 points on 9-for-14 from the field and 4-for-8 from distance. You need your guards to play well if you want to advance in March and I believe that starts with Agbaji. They will need him to continue to be that scoring threat he’s been over the last four games. If Agbaji has a good day, it’ll be a good day for the Jayhawks.
There is some worry on social media that Eastern Washington’s roster is filled with guys that are primed to just rain 3s on Kansas, and while that worry is somewhat warranted because we’ve seen it against KU before…but I’m not buying it. I’m going with the Jayhawks. Even without Wilson, I think KU is too talented, well rested and experienced. I like David McCormack’s matchup against EWU’s smaller front court. Before his positive COVID test, McCormack was on a tear going for 17, 12, 20 and 18 points in his last four games. I expect more of that out Big Dave on Saturday.
As always, Christian Braun will be a key to this game. If he’s hitting shots, KU becomes that more dangerous. It would be no better time than now for him to get hot from three and be a huge contributor through March. With no Jalen Wilson, Kansas will need guys like Bryce Thompson and Tyon Grant-Foster to step up.
I think Kansas comes out and overpowers the Eagles. I like the Jayhawks to cover the -10 and move on to the second round
Kansas 77, Eastern Washington 59
Season Record: 20-7 (16-11 ATS)