Kansas Jayhawks vs. Samford Bulldogs Pick & Prediction MARCH 21st 2024

Kansas might not be capable of making a Final Four run if stars Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr. remain hindered by injuries.

But another question has begun hovering over the Jayhawks: Can they avoid the first-round upset bid of high-octane, high-intensity Samford?

The fourth-seeded Jayhawks (22-10) hope to have the services of Dickinson and McCullar when they oppose the 13th-seeded Bulldogs (29-5) on Thursday in Midwest Region play at Salt Lake City.

McCullar, who averages 18.3 points, has been bothered by a bruised knee for nearly two months. He missed the second half of the regular-season finale against Houston as well as the Big 12 tournament loss versus Cincinnati.

Dickinson sustained a dislocated shoulder in the setback against Houston and sat out the Cincinnati game. He averages 18.0 points and 10.8 rebounds.

Kansas coach Bill Self is hopeful the health of both players will improve enough so he can have their services on Thursday.

“I’ve never had two All-Americans both be out at the same time,” said Self, “but I know that we should be much better this week than what we have been.”

The Jayhawks have dropped four of their past five games and the last two contests were ugly. Houston beat Kansas 76-46 and Cincinnati pounded the Jayhawks 72-52.

Self remains confident better health will equate to Kansas-like results.

“I think a chance to reset and get focused and a chance to get more healthy, I think, will go a long ways for how we play moving forward,” Self said.

Of course, Self isn’t feeling all that great about seeing Samford as the first opponent.

The Bulldogs, coached by Bucky McMillan, play what has been dubbed “Bucky Ball,” a non-stop style where they run and gun on offense and tenaciously press on defense.

“Everybody’s going to say they have a hard draw, I think we got a hard draw,” Self said. “When you think of Samford — what have we labored with the most this year? It’s teams that shoot a ton of 3s and then we have a hard time making up the difference.”

The Bulldogs rank fifth nationally in scoring at 86.0 points per game and are tied for 15th at 9.9 treys per game. They also rank sixth in turnovers forced at 16.62 with eight players having more than 25 steals.

Kansas makes 5.6 3-pointers per game with Johnny Furphy (40) and McCullar (39) rating as the only players with more than 25.

Of course, the Jayhawks are experienced on the March Madness stage. This is just the third trip for Samford, which lost in the first round in 1999 and 2000.

“Obviously, I’m very excited for our program to be on the national scene,” McMillan said, “Those that have been following our program know this is a special team. It’s a special group of guys, the way they represent our university goes hand in hand with our university, how hard they work, how unselfish they are and the confidence in how they approach their business on a day-to-day basis.”

Achor Achor leads Samford in scoring (15.8 points per game), rebounding (6.1) and blocked shots (59). Nine players have made more than 20 treys.

“We’re going to show people we’re supposed to be here,” Samford forward Jermaine Marshall said.

The winner faces either No. 5 Gonzaga or No. 12 McNeese on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

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