By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sprint Center (18,972) -- Kansas City, Missouri.
Television: CBS. NCAA Tournament Record: North Carolina 109-41, Kansas 94-40.
Series Record: North Carolina leads, 6-4.
GAME NOTES: Two of the most storied programs in NCAA Tournament history square
off in the third round of this year's event on Sunday, as the top-seeded
Kansas Jayhawks take on the eighth-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in South
Regional action at the Sprint Center.
The winner moves on to the Sweet 16 to play Michigan.
While UNC was threatened by Villanova on Friday night, the Tar Heels were able
to pull away late for the 78-71 victory. It was head coach Roy Williams' 700th
career win, and the squad has now won 11 straight opening-round games in the
NCAA Tournament. UNC had success shooting the ball, making 49 percent of its
total shots, including 11-of-21 from 3-point range. Draining five of those
triples was P.J. Hairston, who finished with a game-high 23 points. James
Michael McAdoo poured in 17 points, Reggie Bullock netted 15, and Marcus Paige
rounded out the balanced effort with 14 points, four assists and three steals.
Kansas experienced a serious scare against 16th-seeded Western Kentucky in the
second round, but ultimately squeaked by with a 64-57 triumph to advance. The
Jayhawks got strong performances from the field (20-of-42) and the foul line
(24-of-30), but they nearly cost themselves by committing 17 turnovers and
failing to make a 3-pointer. Jeff Withey led the way with 17 points, seven
blocks and six rebounds, while Travis Releford and Ben McLemore poured in 11
points apiece in KU's most recent escape act. With the win, Kansas became the
first team in NCAA history to officially win at least 30 games in four
straight seasons -- Memphis accomplished the feat from 2006-09, but its
2007-08 campaign was later vacated.
These two elite programs have met in the NCAA Tournament five times
previously, most recently last March when Kansas topped North Carolina in the
Midwest Regional Final, 80-67, to advance to the Final Four. The Tar Heels
lead the all-time series however, 6-4.
Williams, who has led the Tar Heels to two national titles (2005, 2009),
coached at Kansas from 1988-2003, and is the second-winningest coach in
Jayhawks' history behind the legendary Phog Allen. He is currently second at
UNC as well, trailing another legend in his former mentor, Dean Smith.
Kansas is led by Bill Self, who directed the Jayhawks to the 2008 national
title and is putting the wraps on his 10th season at the helm after replacing
Williams in 2003.
The Tar Heels' offensive production has been prevalent all season long, as
they net 77.3 ppg, although their scoring defense (69.2 ppg) oftentimes leaves
the team vulnerable. The squad is paced by a trio of scorers capable of
leading the way on any given night, as McAdoo, Bullock and Hairston all
average between 14 and 15 ppg. McAdoo and Bullock are strong on the boards
with 7.7 and 6.6 rpg, respectively, while Bullock and Hairston are deadly from
3-point range with 173 long-range buckets between them. Dexter Strickland and
Paige are both unselfish playmakers, the pair combining for nearly nine
assists per contest.
Much like UNC, Kansas boasts a potent offense with a scoring average of 75.1
ppg on 48 percent field goal efficiency, but unlike the Tar Heels it possesses
an elite-caliber defense in permitting a meager 61.3 ppg on less than 36
percent accuracy from the floor. Pacing the Jayhawks' attack is freshman
sensation McLemore, who pours in 16.2 ppg on greater than 50 percent from the
field (including 43.1 percent from 3-point range). Withey brings 13.7 ppg and
8.3 rpg to the table, and is an outstanding interior defender with 3.9 bpg.
Releford (11.5 ppg) is an efficient guard, as he hits 56.7 percent of his
total shots, while Elijah Johnson (9.9 ppg) gets his teammates involved with
Kansas wasn't at its best on Friday night, and if it comes out with that same
sort of effort against a strong UNC squad, it will pay with an early exit.
That said, expect the Jayhawks to bounce back and come out firing against the
uninspired Tar Heels defense, thus keeping their championship hopes alive.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kansas 79, North Carolina 72