KU vs. North Carolina for a trip to the Final Four
There are only three schools with more than 2,000 wins in college basketball, two of them are in this game. Only Kentucky has more all-time wins than Kansas and North Carolina which meet in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time, the first outside the Final Four. Neither team played particularly well in their Sweet 16 tests, Carolina needing overtime against Ohio and KU surviving NC State despite 37 percent shooting. The big question today is whether or not point guard Kendall Marshall will play for UNC. The bigger question is if he does play, can he be effective? Roy Williams claims that Marshall can’t even brush his teeth with that broken right wrist, maybe bad breath would help deter Kansas pressure.
The ‘Heels turned it over a staggering 24 times against an Ohio team that really didn’t extend them, as KU will surely do. Self loves to use the term ‘attack mode’, especially as it pertains to defense. When you have athletes like Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson , it allows you to push out the opposing offense—making them start their sets where they’re not accustomed. Defense is all about taking a team out of their comfort zone, not allowing them to operate in a fashion that they’re used to. Pressure is designed to force teams into making quicker decision than they’re used to, that’s when you generally can turn them over. That’s the theory anyway.
There are great matchups in this game, with All-American talent all over the court. The Jeff Withey-John Henson post pairing is very intriguing but I’m more interested in how the ‘Heels will deal with Thomas Robinson. Carolina is more of a ‘long and lean’ defensive team, Robinson is a power guy—will Williams run a couple of guys at the KU forward? How will Self handle seven-foot, ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller? I love the game within the game. There’s really not much to choose from between these teams, as with most games, it will probably boil down to who best values and shoots the ball.
Did you know that Tyshawn Taylor has yet to make a three point shot in a dome? He says he’ll keep shooting, but in four previous games he’s come up empty. Roy Williams is looking to breath rarified air should he get to New Orleans. He’s one of eight coaches all-time with two national championships-- there are only five with three or more. Kansas has only had eight head coaches since basketball started there in 1898, Self and Williams have the two highest winning percentages in Jayhawk history. But the KU-UNC connections go far beyond that. Dean Smith played at KU before he went on to become the, then, winningest coach in NCAA history at Carolina, Roy Williams served on Smith’s staff. Larry Brown, who’s here in St. Louis, played at Carolina before he coached Kansas to a national title in 1988. Currently on staff at Carolina are former KU players Jerrod Haase, and CB McGrath. Carolina assistants Steve Robinson and Joe Holladay both coached in Lawrence. Heck, Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little came from North Carolina.
March 24, 2012