Roy Williams has played Kansas twice in the NCAA Tournament since leaving LAwrence and he has lost both of those Games. UNC lost last year as the No. 1 seed and back in 2008 in KU’s run to the National Championship. Now in the 1-8 matchup, Williams’ record could easily go to 0-3.
The Jayhawks enter this Game as -6 point favorites and that’s about where it should be at after they only beat Western Kentucky by seven in their last Game. Kansas has some great wins on the year, but they also have some bad losses. Even as favorites in this one, it’s by no reason said and done.
Much like in KU’s first Game, Jeff Withey is going to be the most important player on the cOurt. At seven feet tall and the back-to-back Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, not many have the big guys to deal with him down low. Withey had 17 points and seven blocks against the Hilltoppers. The same could happen against North Carolina as they’ve changed their Game to more small ball and their de facto center has been James Michael McAdoo who doesn’t really have the size or strength to deal with a player like Withey.
Another problem for the Tar Heels will be on offense. Kansas plays great defense and one of the best in defensive field goal percentage in the nation. UNC bases a lot of their Game on shooting jumpers. Villanova couldn’t stop that as North Carolina hit 11-of-21 from long range in that Game. Even though they were outrebounded by 12, the Tar Heels hit enough of their shots to beat the Wildcats. It’s going to be much harder playing against the likes of Travis Releford, Elijah Johnson and Ben McLemore on the outside. It will be interesting to see what shooters Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston and Marcus Paige will be able to do. Those three dominated last Game combining for 10 threes and 52 points.
There will likely be a lot of points in this Game and the Jayhawks probably won’t be able to survive with the 64 they scored last Game. That’s where leading scorer McLemore comes in. Even though he averages 16 per Game on the season, he hasn’t really looked to attack all that often in the last three Games without more than 11 in any of those. In a bigger Game, on a bigger stage, he will likely play a bigger role for Kansas. His size shouldn’t be a problem for UNC defensively, but his ability to create shots is a problem for anyone. He has the speed to take it to the hole, but the shot to make a pull-up jumper.
The main problem for Kansas is that McLemore and Withey are their only two consistent players. If one of those two has a bad Game, it’s unknown who’s going to step up offensively. Freshman Perry Ellis has been playing well off the bench lately and could have an important role in this Tournament before it’s done.
As it is Kansas vs. North Carolina, this will be an exciting Game to watch. However, much like how UNC has trouble with Duke’s Mason Plumlee, Withey may be too much down low for the Tar Heels. It’s going to be fun, but maybe not as much fun for the ones from the east coast.