NCAA Third Round
North Carolina(25-10) vs Kansas(30-5), 5:15 PM, CBS
Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you know that UNC vs Kansas carries with it a variety of extra storylines. These schools are intertwined by Dean Smith being a former Jayhawk players to Roy Williams coaching 15 years in Lawrence before returning to Chapel Hill. That and UNC 0-2 record against the Jayhawks since Williams return vexes Tar Heel fans greatly. In that respect this game carries the extra layer of wondering if the third time will indeed be the charm for Williams against his old team. Toss in North Carolina's 2-0 mark as an #8 seed versus #1 and the last time UNC played Kansas in Kansas City it was the 1957 NCAA title game there are narratives on narrative on narratives.
And as you might have guessed most of this doesn't matter though it would not be shocking if this game were the one the Tar Heels finally got the monkey of Roy WIlliams' back.
As for actual basketball, neither Kansas or UNC distinguished themselves Friday night with the way they played. UNC blew a 20 point lead and needed to extra effort to dispatch VIllanova. Kansas trailed #16 Western Kentucky at the half and survived despite turning the ball over too often and being wholly ineffective on the offensive end. The saving grace for Kansas was Jeff Withey and his multiple blocked shots plus WKU shooting beyond awful in the second half otherwise Friday night would have been historical.
Since that is the case and NCAA Tournament games may be the most self-contained of the entire season, the expectation is Kansas will acquit themselves in a manner worthy of their seeding. Needless to say North Carolina will need to do the same and then some. Something along the lines of what happened last Sunday only this time the Tar Heels win would be ideal.
Kansas is the 6th ranked defense in the country and has the athletes not to mention the size to cover the Tar Heels. The rebounding with be as tough as it has been at any point since the smaller lineup was employed with the aforementioned Withey, Perry Ellis and Kevin Young. Kansas is #1 in effective FG% defense and allows the lowest two point FG% in the country. The three point defense is slightly weaker but not much. Opponents, on average, shoot 30.2% from thre against the Jayhawks which is 25th nationally. If there is one weakness for Kansas it is they don't turn teams over ranking 245th in TO% on the defensive end.
Offensively, Kansas has weapons like leading scorer Ben McLemore who has shown the ability at times to light it up. Withey will get his seeing that UNC doesn't have the personnel to do much with a 7-footer. On the other hand, Elijah Johnson's running of the point guard position is suspect and his play can be erratic at times. In fact the whole team is prone to major letdowns including a loss to TCU and getting throttled by Baylor to close out the regular season. I imagine the Friday scare from WKU was enough of a motivation to get their house in order for the next game. Then again, UNC opponents have never been lacking for motivation or solid three point shooting when it counted most.
Last year when UNC lost to Kansas in the Elite Eight, James Michael McAdoo scored 15 points which went a long way towards establishing the perception that this season would be a major breakout outing for the Tar Heel sophomore. It has not panned that way but there is nothing to say McAdoo won't repeat what he did last season versus the Jayhawks, If he does that and UNC gets P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock to bomb threes not to mention a continued nice effort from Marcus Paige, UNC has a real shot at the upset.
From the outset, I took UNC over Kansas in this game thinking this was Roy Williams' chance to overcome his former team and do it in Kansas City. And I stick by that because maybe it is and at the same time another win over a #1 seed and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.
UNC 78 Kansas 77