On Friday afternoon, the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks will take on No. 15 Eastern Kentucky Colonels in the “second” round of the NCAA tournament. The game tips off at 3:10 pm central in St. Louis at the Scottrade Center.
Here are three keys to victory for the Jayhawks:
1) Exploit the height difference: Eastern Kentucky has four players over 6-foot-5 tall on their roster: Deverin Muff (who averages 3.8 minutes per game), Eric Stutz (who averages 4.7 rebounds per game), Timmy Knipp (who averages 1.1 rebounds per game) and Jeff Johnson (who averages 1.5 rebounds per game). Stutz is their leading rebounder.
On the flip side, nine Jayhawks are taller than 6-foot-5 (eight if you exclude Joel Embiid). Besides Embiid, Kansas has two players who average more rebounds than Stutz (Ellis and Wiggins) while Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor both average 3.8 rebounds per game.
Kansas will dwarf Eastern Kentucky and this is how the Jayhawks will win the game.
Eastern Kentucky knows they’re so awful at rebounding that they’ve been known to not even put someone in the paint when attempting free throws. Kansas will easily outrebound Eastern Kentucky by 25+.
Going into the game, KU averages 12 more rebounds per game than Eastern Kentucky.
2) Perry Ellis: This goes hand in hand with No. 1. I see Perry Ellis having a monster game. Ellis was fantastic in the first half against Iowa State in Kansas City. He needs to continue to play well and by exploiting the height of his defenders, Ellis will dominate.
I see a 25+ points and 15+ rebounds game from Ellis and I could even see him grabbing 20 rebounds.
Additionally, Tarik Black will live off the glass on Friday.
3) Perimeter defense: What Eastern Kentucky does extremely well is force turnovers and shoot threes. Their guard play is superb and superior to Kansas.
I don’t mean this as any disrespect to Naadir Tharpe, Frank Mason and Wayne Selden, but Eastern Kentucky’s guards will pick their pocket many times on Friday. The Colonels average 8.8 steals per game and I could see Eastern Kentucky pressing Kansas after made baskets to force turnovers.
While Kansas will dominate EKU in the paint, the Colonels will chuck up threes. Eastern Kentucky is fifth in the country in made three-pointers per game (9.2) and they rank 23rd in the country in three-point field goal percentage (39 percent). Only Iona and Creighton made more threes this season.
If Kansas can play great perimeter defense (something they’ve failed to do at times) and rebound, they’ll be able to avoid the full-court pressure defense from Eastern Kentucky.
Glenn Cosey is the real deal and he’ll likely be Wayne Selden’s defensive assignment. If Selden can shut down Cosey, or at least contain him from having a huge game, Eastern Kentucky won’t have much of a shot. Cosey shoots 42.5 percent from beyond the arc.
For more on Eastern Kentucky, view the Rock Chalk Blog preview and watch the video below: