Kansas Jayhawks vs. Arizona State Sun Devils Pick
Kansas Jayhawks (10-0 SU, 5-5 ATS) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (8-2 SU, 5-4-1 ATS)
When: Saturday, December 22, 2018 – 9 PM ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Tempe, Ariz.
By: Dan Jamison, College Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: KU -4.5/ASU +4.5
Total: O/U 152.5
Last Time Out: Kansas routed South Dakota 89-53; Arizona State lost at Vanderbilt 81-65.
Analyzing the Jayhawks:
Kansas has been a weird team to try to figure out in terms of the spread this year. The Jayhawks have alternated between “dominant” and “decent but flawed” throughout the season, which has made it very difficult to get a read on them as far as their spreads go. What is certain is that Bill Self has another excellent team that should bring another Big 12 title to Lawrence before all is said and done this year.
However, the Jayhawks haven’t always been the smartest team, as evidenced by how they finished their game against Villanova, a win that they barely escaped with down the stretch. Dedric Lawson has been a great player for Kansas, but mental mistakes could be this team’s undoing if they don’t get them cleaned up.
Analyzing the Sun Devils:
Bobby Hurley’s crew has answered most of the questions about whether they can play with good teams. Now, can they beat one? Arizona State has a solid record so far, but questions about the Pac-12’s overall weakness have tainted what the Sun Devils have done to date. Arizona State and rival Arizona are the only schools currently pulling their weight in the Pac-12, which means this game is critical for the Sun Devils as far as providing instant credibility and separating themselves from their underperforming conference.
To do that, Arizona State has to shoot the 3 better than it did in the Southeast. In a narrow escape over Georgia and the loss to Vanderbilt, ASU was 11-for-37 from deep, such a poor percentage that it only attempted 16 3’s against Georgia. 3-pointers were how the Sun Devils upset the Jayhawks last year, and they cannot be afraid to shoot.
Arizona State’s energy. Do the Sun Devils have enough left for Kansas? Bobby Hurley has scheduled aggressively this season, having played Mississippi State, Nevada, Vanderbilt, Georgia and now Kansas. The last four of those have been consecutive games, and Kansas will be the first of those opponents to come to Tempe. If the Sun Devils are running on fumes after three tough tasks, though, it will all be for naught.
Kansas Will Cover if:
The Jayhawks can hit their free throws. Kansas is the first No. 1 team to come to Tempe in a nonconference game in perhaps decades, which means the Arizona State Curtain of Distraction will be out in full force for the Jayhawks to face. Kansas is not a great free throw shooting team, and there’s a good chance that Bobby Hurley won’t mind fouling that much as long as they’re intelligent fouls that force Kansas to earn the victory. The Jayhawks need to flip that script by concentrating at the line.
Arizona State Will Cover if:
The Sun Devils can get hot again from beyond the arc. Arizona State doesn’t have the horses to run with Kansas, and given that they’ve played three tough games recently, Arizona State might not want to play a faster pace. Instead, ASU has to follow its blueprint from a year ago: take good looks and get them to drop.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
It’s rare that I’m going to pass on the chance to take a home underdog that’s ranked, but I just can’t trust Arizona State right now. While I commend Bobby Hurley for being willing to schedule good teams out of conference, the loss to a middling Vanderbilt team was a real red flag that something isn’t quite there with the Sun Devils. Most sportsbooks are only giving ASU 4.5 point. That’s not enough.
Meanwhile, even though Kansas has been inconsistent on the scoreboard, the Jayhawks have been consistent winners. They’ve played their usual strong schedule against good competition, and they should come out ready for Arizona State, especially because of the prospect of revenge for what happened in Lawrence. Ask any of the Big 12 schools: when Kansas loses one game to them, they’re not likely to lose a second time. In Bill Self’s 15 seasons in Lawrence, Kansas has only been swept once, by Oklahoma State last year.
What usually happens under Self is that Kansas comes into the second matchup ticked off and looking to prove a point. Kansas was perturbed about the way it lost a year ago, and now they’ve got a chance to make up for it. I think they’re going to do exactly that. I’m going with the Jayhawks and laying the 4.5 points in the desert.