2013 NCAA Tournament Preview: Kansas vs. Western Kentucky

No. 1  Kansas vs. No. 16 Western Kentucky – Friday, March 22nd 2013 at approximately 8:50 pm CT

No. 16 Western Kentucky:

Season overview: Western Kentucky is the No. 16 seed in the South Region and the Hilltoppers were 20-15 in the 2012-13 regular season. They finished fourth in the Sun Belt Conference East (sixth overall). They ended up winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament by defeating Florida International on March 11th, 65-63.

Quick Facts:

  • Kenpom Rank: 183
  • Kenpom Adjusted Offense Rank: 177
  • Kenpom Adjusted Defense Rank: 182
  • Kenpom Tempo: 182
  • RealTimeRPI RPI Rank: 149
  • RealTimeRPI SOS Rank: 160
  • RealTimeRPI Sun Belt Conference RPI: 15
  • Good Wins: None
  • Bad Losses: Florida Atlantic (twice), Murray State, Arkansas Little Rock, Florida International

Against the Field: 

Western Kentucky is 0-4 against teams in the field of 68:

  • Lost to Louisville 78-55
  • Lost to VCU 76-44
  • Lost to Middle Tenn. State 70-62 and 72-53

Player to Watch For: T.J. Price (15.3 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game, 2.4 assists per game). The sophomore has been on fire since February started (in 12 games, he has scored in double figures in 10 of them).  He has had nine 15+ point or more performances since February began, including six 20+ point performances.

For more information on Western Kentucky, check out the Q&A with Chad Bishop (WKU beat writer for the Bowling Green Daily News).

Game Preview:

March Madness has arrived once again and Kansas finds themselves as a one seed for the 11th time in the 75-year history of the NCAA Tournament (tied for third most all-time). Slated to play their first and possibly second games in the friendly confines of the Sprint Center in Kansas City, experts have listed the Jayhawks as a lock to get to at least the Sweet 16.

On Saturday, Kansas steamrolled  Kansas State to win the 2013 Big 12 Tournament Championship. The Wildcats were never really in the game, and Kansas’ offense and defense flowed nicely on their way to a 16-point victory.

As for the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky, their route to a 16 seed has been less than stellar. With a 20-15 record with losses to Florida Atlantic, Murray State, Arkansas Little-Rock, and Florida Atlantic, they do not look to be a tough matchup for the Jayhawks.

Inside the Match-Up:

Offense:

  • Kansas: The 25th adjusted-ranked offense by Kenpom, Kansas can be potent on the offensive end of the floor. Their season average of 75.4 points per game currently ranks 24th in all of college basketball, and four of the five Jayhawk starters average more than 10 points per game. Another impressive statistic of the Kansas offense is their 19th ranked average of 15.6 assists per game. That complemented by their scoring ability is dangerous for opponents who lack top defensive skills.
  • Western Kentucky: On the other end of the offensive spectrum sits the Hilltoppers. Kenpom ranks the Western Kentucky offense 177th- one of the  lowest marks of any team in the field. Averaging only 67.2 points per game (178 in the country), the Hilltoppers would need Kansas to absolutely roll over on the defensive end to have a fighting chance.

Edge: Kansas- and it isn’t close

Defense

  • Kansas: Ranked 5th overall by Kenpom, the Jayhawk defense has been absolutely flawless for a majority of 2013. A major emphasis for coach Bill Self, Kansas has always been known for their defensive skills under his leadership. The Jayhawks have put up some impressive point totals on the defensive end this season. Holding teams to as few as 41 points, the Kansas defense will be a leading force in advancing through the tournament.
  • Western Kentucky: Once again on the other end of the defensive spectrum, Western Kentucky struggles to play consistent defense to say the least. Kenpom’s 188th ranked defense- again one of the lowest in the field- the Hilltoppers will struggle against the offensive firepower of Kansas.

Edge: Again Kansas, and again by a long shot

NCAA Tournament History:

Kansas:  41 appearances, 14 final fours and three National Championships. It is safe to say Kansas is well versed in the challenges and successes of the NCAA Tournament. Boasting a 93-40 (70% win percentage) overall record, there are not many teams who have the tournament pedigree that Kansas does.

Western Kentucky: Making the Sweet 16 as recent as 2008, the Hilltoppers are no strangers to the NCAA Tournament. While they only have made the Final Four once, they have had recent success in the tournament. Last season Western Kentucky won a game in the First Four before losing to eventual champion and in-state counterpart, Kentucky.

How I See It:

As rare and unprecedented as a 16 seed winning a game in the NCAA Tournament would be, it isn’t happening Friday. Western Kentucky has absolutely no decent match ups with Kansas and that will show in a big way. Having one player over 6’7″ on your roster against a team that has a 7’0″ Wooden Award Finalist does not bode well for success.

Prediction:

Kansas has little challenge in dispatching their first 2013 Tournament opponent, and wins going away 88-62.