(1) North Carolina vs. (2) Kansas: Midwest Region
North Carolina 32-5, 14-2 ACC (Regular-season Conference Champions; At large)
Kansas 30-6, 16-2 Big 12 (Regular-season Conference Champions; At large)
Time: 5:05 p.m. Sunday
Location: Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis
Winner will face: (1) Syracuse or (2) Ohio State, Saturday in New Orleans
North Carolina def. Vermont, 77-58; def. Creighton, 87-73; def. Ohio, 73-65 (OT)
Kansas def. Detroit 65-50; def. Purdue 63-60; def. N.C. State, 60-57
North Carolina No. 4 AP; No. 5 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Kansas No. 6 AP; No. 6 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
North Carolina 4
Line: Kansas -2 (O/U 143½)
Players to Watch
North Carolina: F Tyler Zeller, 7-0 Sr. (16.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 55.2% FG); F John Henson, 6-11 Jr. (13.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 3 bpg); G Stilman White, 6-0 Fr. (4.3 mpg, 0.7 ppg, 0.6 apg). White certainly isn’t Kendall Marshall, but the freshman wasn’t bad in his first start of the season in Friday’s overtime win over Ohio with a season-high six assists against zero turnovers.
Kansas: F Thomas Robinson, 6-10 Jr. (17.7 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 52.1% FG); G Tyshawn Taylor, 6-3 Sr. (16.9 ppg, 4.7 apg, 1.2 spg); C Jeff Withey, 7-0 Jr. (9.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.3 bpg). After subpar games in the Jayhawks’ first two tournament wins, Withey was big in Kansas’s victory over N.C. State on Friday with eight points, five rebounds, a steal, an assist and 10 big blocked shots.
Why Each Team Dangerous
North Carolina: The Tar Heels dominated the paint Friday, no different than they have the entire season. UNC out-rebounded Ohio 56-26, including 17 offensive boards, blocked eight shots and held the Bobcats to 23-of-71 shooting. For the season, Carolina out-rebounds opponents by 10.9 boards per game, blocks 5.8 shots per contest and opponents manage only 39.2 percent from the floor against the Tar Heels. UNC is deep up front and on the wings, especially compared to the Jayhawks.
Kansas: The Jayhawk defense was excellent against N.C. State. The Wolfpack managed just 19-for-67 from the floor, 6-of-21 from the 3-point line and Kansas forced 14 turnovers and got nine steals and 11 blocked shots. It was perhaps its best defensive performance of the season. Of course, Kansas is also a capable offensive team. For the year, Kansas ranks 21st in the nation in field goal percentage (47.6) and averages 74 points per game. The Jayhawks have a plus-5.6 rebounding margin and a 1.16-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
North Carolina: The Tar Heels clearly weren’t the same without Marshall. They turned the ball over 24 times against 18 assists. For the season, Carolina turned the ball over just 12 times per game, had a plus-1.5 turnover margin and a 1.44-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, but that was with Marshall. If Marshall can’t go Sunday – and coach Roy Williams said he won’t – the Tar Heels will have to be much more careful with the basketball against Kansas. They’ll also have to hit perimeter shots. They went just 7-for-22 against Ohio and shoot just 34.1 from behind the arc this season.
Kansas: Although the KU offense has been good all year, it struggled Friday, shooting 37.5 percent from the field and hitting one of its 14 3-point shots. Taylor struggled, in particular, going 2-for-14 overall and 0-for-6 from deep. It has struggled from behind the arc all season, shooting just 34.6 percent, while allowing opponents to shoot 34.3 percent from deep. The Jayhawks were also out-rebounded 43-42 by the Wolfpack and have been prone to giving up offensive rebounds all season. Frontcourt depth is also an issue. Against the big UNC front line, foul trouble may be a concern.
The Bottom Line: If Marshall plays and is himself, Carolina wins going away. If he doesn’t, this one goes down to the wire.
The Pick: North Carolina 77, Kansas 75
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 215-171-6 (Through Regional Semis)