#9 Florida Atlantic Owls vs #3 Kansas State Wildcats (3/25 @ 6:09 PM EST)
Spread: Kansas State -2
Moneyline: FAU +116 / KSU -130
Overview and Betting Info
The #9 Florida Atlantic Owls (34-3) will take on the #3 Kansas State Wildcats (26-9) Saturday in the East Region’s Elite 8 matchup. FAU won the Conference USA regular season and tournament, while Kansas State finished third in the Big 12. These teams have not met this season.
FAU is 23-11-1 against the spread this season and have covered seven of their last ten games. They’ve gone over the total 17 times but have been under in five of their last six games.
KSU is 24-11 versus the spread and have covered seven of their last ten games. They’ve gone over the total 19 times and have done so in five of their six games.
Florida Atlantic Owls
The Owls have emerged as the top Cinderella team in this year’s March Madness after beating #4 Tennessee on Thursday night. They now find themselves in the Elite 8 in their second appearance in the NCAA Tournament. They opened with wins over #8 Memphis and #16 Fairleigh Dickinson, and they did not play a single tournament team during the regular season. That had people worried, but It didn’t matter on Thursday night as they overcame an elite Tennessee defense to rally late and win by seven points. They did so through a defensive effort many didn’t expect. They held the Vols to a 33.3% field goal percentage and won the rebounding advantage. That helped them overcome whopping 12 turnovers. The Owls don’t generate many turnovers but rely on contesting shots to keep them in games.
The Owls were able to win their conference thanks to their incredible balance. On offense, they were second in the CUSA in scoring (78.0 PPG), field goal percentage (46.6%), three-point percentage (36.5%), assists (14.6 APG), and turnovers (11.6 TO/G). On defense, they ranked third in opponent scoring (64.8 PPG), second in field goal percentage (40.0%), second in the three-point percentage (31.4%), second in rebounds (38.9 RPG), sixth in steals (6.5 SPG), and ninth in blocks (2.5 BPG).
The Owls are led by Johnell Davis (13.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 49.6 FG%, 37.8 3P%), Alijah Martin (13.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG), and Vladislav Goldin (10.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 63.0 FG%). Davis is having a fantastic tournament, averaging 18.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.7 steals. He did not shoot well against Tennessee but went 9-10 for the free throw line to help them clinch the game down the stretch. Martin is their most prolific three-point shooter, making 36% of his attempts in the tournament. He hasn’t been contributing in many other categories, but he is also a solid defender. Goldin is FAU’s top big man, standing 7’1”. He is a great rebounder, though his scoring has been down to end of the season. Still, he is a crucial defender, with four blocks in their three tournament games. Expect Goldin to play a significant role against a Kansas State team that doesn’t have a ton of size.
Kansas State Wildcats
The Wildcats enter Saturday after beating #7 Michigan State in one of the most thrilling games of the tournament. They won by making 55.9% of their shots and only committing five turnovers throughout the game. The Wildcats were outrebounded and did not defend well, but their efficient offense helped them to score 98 points and win in overtime. While the defense and rebounding are concerning going forward, their ability to stay with Michigan State throughout the game shows how tough this team is. KSU went 8-7 against tournament teams during the regular season.
Kansas State’s success has come from their play on offense this season. They were third in the Big 12 in scoring (76.2 PPG), third in field goal percentage (46.1%), seventh in three-point shooting (34.0%), second in free throw percentage (75.0%), first in assists, and ninth in turnovers (13.9 TO/G). Their play on defense has been a different story. They ranked eighth in the Big 12 in opponent scoring (69.6 PPG), sixth in field goal percentage (42.3%), first in three-point percentage (30.5%), fifth in rebounds (35.0 RPG), fifth in steals (7.9 SPG), and ninth in blocks (2.8 BPG). One area of concern is foul trouble. They were eighth in the Big 12 in fouls with 17.8 per game and had 24 in their win against Tennessee.
The Wildcats have been led by the play of Keyontae Johnson (17.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 51.6 FG%, 40.0 3P%), Markquis Nowell (17.2 PPG, 8.1 APG, 2.5 SPG), and Nae’Qwan Tomlin (10.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 49.8 FG%). Johnson is their leading scorer and has fantastic against the Spartans on Thursday, finishing with 22 points and making 55.6% of his shots. It was a great bounce back after he struggled against Kentucky, where he made less than 45% of his shots for the first time in eight games. Johnson is now making 49% of their shots in the tournament. Nowell gave us a historic performance on Thursday by overcoming a bad ankle roll to total 20 points, 19 assists, and five steals. It was an incredible performance, even though he only made 38.9% of his shots. While Johnson is the leading scorer, Nowell is the player that makes this offense great. Tomlin is their top big man and has been fantastic in their three tournament games, averaging 12.0 points, 2.2 blocks, and 1.23 steals. He’s also making 61% of his shots during their run.
Free Pick: FAU ML +116
Nowell’s performance was incredible against Tennessee, but that kind of ankle injury always feels worse the day after. Once the adrenaline leaves and the ankle swells up, it becomes much harder to move around. I have no doubt he will play, but he will be far from top form. Nowell already isn’t an efficient scorer and relies on his ability to cut through defenses to make up for his small size. That disappears with a bad ankle and will face him to shoot from the outside, where he is unreliable. We saw the Wildcats fall apart when he was off the floor, showing just how important he is.
Conversely, this FAU team has shown us they can stop a team like KSU. Look at their win at Memphis. The Tigers have almost identical numbers to the Wildcats, but they average 3 more points per game. FAU held them to 65 points to get the win, despite their offense being a bit off. The Owl’s balance has helped them beat two teams that finished the season ranked in the Top 25 and is why we love them to win this game.
We’re taking the FAU moneyline on Saturday.