Sweet 16 trip on the line in Blue Blood Showdown

After narrowly escaping their first-round opponents, Kansas and North Carolina have to feel relieved to be facing each other Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Both teams struggled to put their opponents away, with Kansas nearly giving up a 10 point lead over Western Kentucky in the final five minutes and North Carolina giving up a 20 point lead in the second half before rallying to win over Villanova.

Kansas looked overwhelmingly normal for most of their first-round game, never leading by more than 10 points against an undersized team. Their perimeter defense was lacking at times, repeatedly allowing Western Kentucky back into the game whenever the Jayhawks would pull ahead by five or six points. Bill Self was beside himself during most of the contest with his teams apparent lack of effort — something very unbecoming of Kansas tournament teams.

Former Jayhawk coach Roy Williams narrowly defeated Villanova Friday, surrendering a 20 point lead before recovering for a 78-71 victory. The win was Williams’ 700th as a head coach, 418 of which came when he was coaching Kansas. While he wasn’t thrilled with his team giving up such a large lead, a coach’s 700th win is nothing to diminished, and congratulations are in order for the former Jayhawk great.

Inside the match-ups

Offense:

  • Kansas: The 25th adjusted-ranked offense by Kenpom, Kansas can be potent on the offensive end of the floor. They did not show that ability Friday, but have been sporadic on offense the entire season. Despite their low-scoring effort on Friday night, they still shot for a good percentage (20-for-42). 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. North Carolina has the 47th ranked defense in the country (Kenpom) so Kansas will have to be crisp and avoid turnovers to win.
  • North Carolina: The Tar Heel offense is simple: efficient, high scoring, and quick. Four North Carolina starters are guards– not always a great matchup for Kansas– and can shoot the ball well. Ranked 27th in the country (Kenpom), North Carolina likes to get up the court in a hurry and will be a tough challenge for the Kansas defense. North Carolina has one of the fastest offensive tempos in the country and should provide Kansas with a challenge defensively.

Edge: Kansas’ offense is least effective against a smaller lineup. The edge goes to North Carolina

Defense:

  • Kansas: Ranked fifth 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 started the second half 4-for-29 from the field against Kansas on Friday night which shows that KU can rely on their defense alone to win games.
  • North Carolina: “Not a great defense, but not terrible either” has been a standard for Roy Williams teams throughout his career and nothing is different in 2013. The Tar Heels have been decent on the defensive end at times this year, and nonexistent at others. Friday was a prime example of that with their defense building and then losing a 20-point lead.

Edge: Kansas has a defense far superior to North Carolina, but North Carolina’s offense could pose problems for the Jayhawks.

Kansas-North Carolina History:

This is the third NCAA tournament matchup between Kansas and North Carolina in the last five years. Kansas beat UNC in the 2008 Final Four and in the 2012 Elite Eight. Both teams are rich in tournament history, and that experience will play a part in Sundays game.

This is the 11th time the Tarheels and Jayhawks have met, with North Carolina holding the 6-4 series lead. This is the sixth time these teams have met in the NCAA tournament.

The last time both these teams met in the NCAA tournament in Kansas City was in 1957. North Carolina defeated the Jayhawks, led by Wilt Chamberlain, in triple overtime to win the title. That game was the first between the two storied programs and it took place just a few blocks away from the Sprint Center in Municipal Auditorium.

Last Time They Met:

No. 2 Kansas defeated No. 1 North Carolina in St. Louis to advance to the Final Four. Watch the full game below:


How I See It:

Kansas needs to be sharper in every aspect of their game to win Sunday. They were sloppy on offense and complacent on defense for almost all 40 minutes Friday. Now that the first-tournament-game-jitters are gone, so are the excuses. Kansas must play an all-around better game to move on to the Sweet 16 in Dallas.

Prediction:

Roy Williams has to wait until November to pick up win 701. He did great things as coach of the Jayhawks, but his former team will best him yet again in their own backyard, 77-69.

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