(1) Kansas vs. (8) North Carolina
(1) Kansas Jayhawks
The Jayhawks suffered some bad losses during the regular season, but on Friday they were looking at what would have been their most devastating defeat squarely in the face. The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers came out confident and led by one after 20 minutes. However, the Jayhawks’ defense stepped up in the second half and they were able to avoid the upset, 64-57. Their defense was anchored by Jeff Withey, who blocked seven shots while scoring a game-high 17 and grabbing six rebounds. It’s all about surviving and advancing at this time of year, but that’s about the only positive spin you can put on the Jayhawks’ performance. They did not play up to their potential and will have to be better against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Round of 32. They cannot afford to turn it over 17 times and go 0-6 from three again. If they do, it will be the Tar Heels moving on to the Sweet 16.
(8) North Carolina Tar Heels
Small ball has been the key to the Tar Heels’ recent success and while the Villanova Wildcats exposed some of its weaknesses, UNC came out on top, 78-71. Where the Tar Heels struggled against the Wildcats was with their defensive rebounding and turnovers. They were outrebounded by 12, giving up 14 offensive boards, and gave the ball away 17 times. Their three-point shooting was their saving grace, though, as they made 11-21 from distance. P.J. Hairston made five from three and finished with a game-high 23. In the Round of 32, the Tar Heels are going up against a Jayhawks squad that can and will hurt them on the glass too if they don’t do a better job of boxing out and getting to the 50-50 balls first. James Michael McAdoo will have a tough match up on his hands against Jeff Withey. If the Tar Heels can stay hot from three, they have a chance against the Jayhawks and anyone else in this tournament for that matter.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Kansas. We’re going to go with the Jayhawks. They’ll follow the Wildcats’ blueprint for beating the Tar Heels, but execute it better.