(2) Kansas vs. (15) Detroit: Midwest Region
Kansas 27-6, 16-2 Big 12 (Regular-season Conference Champions; At large)
Detroit 22-13, 11-7 Horizon (Conference Tournament Champions)
Time: 9:57 p.m. Friday
Location: CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.
Winner will face: (7) Saint Mary’s or (10) Purdue
Kansas No. 6 AP; No. 6 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Line: Kansas -15 (O/U 142½)
Players to Watch
Kansas: F Thomas Robinson, 6-10 Jr. (17.9 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 53.1% FG); G Tyshawn Taylor, 6-3 Sr. (17.3 ppg, 4.8 apg, 43.5% 3s); C Jeff Withey, 7-0 Jr. (9.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.3 bpg). Robinson is a first-team All-American, but the argument can be made that Taylor is the reason the Jayhawks won their eighth-straight Big 12 title. He was fourth in the league in scoring, sixth in assists, 13th in steals and ninth in assist-to-turnover ratio. He also shot 49.2 percent from the field (sixth in the Big 12) and 43.5 percent from 3 (fourth).
Detroit: G Ray McCallum, 6-2 So. (15.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.9 apg); G Chase Simon, 6-7 Sr. (13.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.4 apg); C LaMarcus Lowe, 6-10 Sr. (6.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.2 bpg). McCallum began to play like the McDonald’s All-American he is in the Horizon League Tournament. He scored 26, 22 and 21 points in three games. He also had 16 rebounds, 15 assists and eight steals during the tournament.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Kansas: The Jayhawks have arguably the nation’s best inside-outside threat with Robinson and Taylor. Robinson is tough and skilled. Taylor can shoot and create. Withey adds a nice defense tandem to Robinson and can score at times. If Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford are playing well, Kansas is as good as any team in the country. The Jayhawks are shooting 48.5 percent from the floor and 35.8 percent from deep, while holding opponents to 38.3 and 34.7, respectively. The Jayhawks are an excellent rebounding team. They average 39.3 boards per game, have a plus-5.9 rebounding advantage and grab 11.1 offensive boards per game.
Detroit: The Titans are not a typical 15 seed. They are big, long, athletic and have talent on their bench. After a disappointing start, Detroit has won five straight and 10 of their last 11, including a 20-point win over Horizon champion Valparaiso in the tournament championship game. In that outing, the Titans outscored the Crusaders, who had just drubbed two-time national runner up Butler the night before, 46-23 in the second half. The Titans get to the foul line regularly and shoot 73.4 from the charity stripe. The big, athletic front line blocks 8.7 shot per game and helps hold opponents to 43.9 percent from the field. Pressure is Detroit’s defensive strength. It forces 15.1 turnovers per game and has a plus-2.6 turnover ratio. Horizon League teams have a history of outperforming their seeds.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Kansas: Jayhawk coach Bill Self needs to get more credit than he does. This is the least talented Kansas team in years. The Jayhawks have only two players who would play on most Kansas teams and they have almost no depth. Still, Self led his team to its eighth-straight league crown. When Withey gets into foul trouble – or is ineffective – Kansas is not very strong in the paint. The Jayhawks are turnover prone and that could be a big key against Detroit’s strong pressure defense.
Detroit: The Titans had a disappointing regular season, losing games to George Washington, Bowling Green, Illinois-Chicago and Youngstown State early in the season. Detroit doesn’t shoot well from the perimeter and it allows opponents to shoot 36.8 percent from deep. Despite its size and athleticism, it only out-rebounded its opponents by 1.3 per game. However, in their Horizon Tournament run, the Titans out-rebounded opponents 125-98.
The Bottom Line: In his office in Lawrence, Kansas, Self spent the week watching film of Detroit and sweating. The Jayhawks, who have a history of embarrassing losses in the NCAA Tournament, are confronted by a matchup nightmare. Every advantage Kansas has in most games simply aren’t there against the Titans. Will Detroit pull off the upset? It could happen. Will the Titans cover the enormous spread? Of that, have no doubt.
The Pick: Detroit 77, Kansas 75
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 198-150-6 (Through Tuesday, March 14)
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