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Creighton Bluejays vs. Kansas Jayhawks Prediction: NCAA Tournament Second Round Preview

Creighton Bluejays vs. Kansas Jayhawks Prediction: NCAA Tournament Second Round Preview

The short-handed Bluejays take on the top-seeded Jayhawks in Fort Worth for a spot in the Sweet 16

It's Big East vs. Big 12 in a Texas second-round showdown. Midwest Region top seed Kansas faced little challenge from SWAC champion Texas Southern to open the 2022 NCAA Tournament in distinct contrast to No. 9 Creighton's overtime rock fight with No. 8 San Diego State.

To compound the difficulties for Creighton's quick turnaround, the Bluejays will be without Ryan Kalkbrenner.

Kalkbrenner played 40 minutes in Thursday's win and recorded a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds. With Creighton already down Ryan Nembhard, out since Feb. 26, it faces a tall task against first-team All-American Ochai Agbaji and a tough Jayhawks bunch.

Midwest Region: No. 9 Creighton (23-11) vs. No. 1 Kansas (29-6)

Time: Saturday, March 19 at 2:40 p.m. ET
Where: Dickies Arena (Fort Worth, Texas)
Spread: Kansas -10 

Keys for Creighton

The Bluejays have ridden stout defense to 23 wins this season, and they come into Saturday's matchup having held its last six opponents to fewer than 70 points. Losing primary rim-protector Kalkbrenner delivers a serious blow to Creighton's top 10-ranked 2-point shooting defense, but backup big man Keyshawn Feazell has played some quality minutes before and was an excellent rebounder last season at McNeese.

Creighton will need to aid its defense on the offensive end: Kansas plays at one of the faster paces of teams in the Tournament field, which the Bluejays will look to slow. Longer possessions that force the Jayhawks to work deep into the shot clock help Creighton dictate the terms of Saturday's game.

Ryan Hawkins looks to bounce back after a lackluster offensive performance against San Diego State. Hawkins scored 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting (0-for-3 on 3-pointers) with nearly as many turnovers (six) as rebounds (eight).

Keys for Kansas

The void Creighton will have in the interior is ripe for Kansas to attack. The Jayhawks boast outstanding 3-point shooters in Agbaji and Christian Braun, but drawing the Bluejays' defense in with some deep shots falling early could make quick work of the No. 9 seed. 

Jalen Wilson should benefit both in his shot looks and opportunities on the glass. Defensively, meanwhile, Kansas comes into this game having held its last six opponents to 68 points or fewer. The Jayhawks are undefeated in those contests.

Final Analysis

Kansas is a matchup nightmare for short-handed Creighton. The Bluejays will have to try to slow an outstanding offense without their best defender, and they simply lack the offensive firepower to keep pace if KU sets the tempo.

Prediction: Kansas 77, Creighton 59 

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @KyleKensing.