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(1) Kansas vs. (16) Western Kentucky
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On March 17, 2013 @ 5:45 pm In NCAA | No Comments
(1) Kansas Jayhawks
Gone are Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, the catalysts behind the Jayhawks’ surprising run to the national championship game last season, but their shoes have been filled admirably by Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey. McLemore is widely regarded as the nation’s best shooting guard and a potential number one pick in the 2013 draft. Withey, meanwhile, is an improved offensive threat and the nation’s third-best shotblocker with four a contest. He’s one of the main reasons why the Jayhawks have the nation’s best defense in terms of opponent’s field goal percentage (35.8). The Jayhawks are undoubtedly one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament, but when they don’t show up anyone can beat them, as TCU proved back on Feb. 6. Jayhawks head coach Bill Self will be banking on his team’s experience to prevent such a letdown in a win-or-go-home format. They scored 74 points a night and outrebounded their opponents by six on average during the regular season. Just like last year, the Jayhawks will need their stars to play like stars and the role players to step up when needed in order to be one of the last teams standing. The tournament will be a great test for McLemore, who was ineligible and forced to watch from the sidelines last year.
(16) Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
The Hilltoppers (20-15, 10-10) are back in the tournament for the third time in five seasons thanks to their late-game execution. They were a .500 basketball team during regular season play in the Sun Belt, but in the conference tournament they were able to get past South Alabama, Arkansas State and Florida International by a combined seven points to earn their spot in the big dance. The Hilltoppers have walked away with victories in each of their last three appearances, pulling off first round upsets in 2008 and 2009 while winning in the first four last year against Mississippi Valley State. As expected, sophomores T.J. Price and George Fant have grown into leaders after strong freshmen campaigns. The program dismissed oft-troubled center Teeng Akol in late February and have won six of seven without him, but they could really miss his size in the tournament. The Wildcats were 0-6 against the RPI top 100 and lost seven games to teams ranked in the 100-200 range. Where they really get themselves in trouble is with turnovers. They give it away 15 times on average and if that continues in the tournament, they’ll have a really hard time advancing.
HOOPSWORLD’s Pick: Kansas. The Jayhawks have overlooked teams before, but even if they do look past the Hilltoppers it’s hard to see them pulling off the upset.
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