Tonight is home to possibly the best Sweet 16 matchup of the tournament. The Kansas Jayhawks will tip off against the Michigan Wolverines at 6:37 central time. The game, being played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, is a rare meeting between two of the top programs in the country.
Look for the matchup between Kansas guard Travis Releford and Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. Releford’s strong defensive play could determine the outcome of the game. Hardaway Jr. has been averaging 17.5 points per game in the Wolverine’s two tournament games, but Travis Releford has the defensive ability to significantly decrease Burke’s scoring.
Also keep an eye on the Trey Burke matchup with Elijah Johnson. Johnson has had a disappointing season, but has proved to come up in tight situations. Burke, a sophmore, is arguably the player of the year, though. I think Johnson will come up big once again and hold Trey Burke to a sub-par night.
If Jeff Withey can have the same type of game against Michigan as he did against North Carolina, the Jayhawks have no reason to lose. Withey’s paint communication with Kevin Young is superb, and they are arguably the best big man duo in the NCAA this season. Watch for Young to draw double teams and then dish the ball to Withey for easy scores.
The X-factor in this game is Ben McLemore. Lately, McLemore has been playing at a level he has never seen, nor has the nation. In Kansas’ previous game versus North Carolina, McLemore went 0-9 from the field, 0-6 from three point range. If he can regain his shot, Kansas could cruise to a victory. Plus, I want to see him have a highlight-dunk. During the regular season, Ben McLemore soared for some spectacular dunks. If he can go on a one man breakaway, McLemore should put something special on a dunk to give Kansas the momentum.
I belive Kansas will come out on top. The Jayhawks have showed up for big games against some of the best teams and I do not see that changing today. Also, this is Michigan’s first Sweet Sixteen appearance since the Fab Five the early 1990’s. Kansas’ experience in the Sweet 16, eight appearances in the last ten years , will be beneficial to tonight’s game. Tipoff is at 6:37 p.m. on TBS, and the winner of this game will advance to play the winner of Florida and Florida Gulf Coast.
Oh, and how about Florida Gulf Coast?
The Jayhawks could not have started worse against Ohio State. Tyshawn Taylor and the squad seemed nervous and timid. KU had nine turnovers and shot 29 percent from the field. Kansas could not get in a rhythm offensively in the first half. While credit must be given to Ohio State’s stifling defense, the main problem was no being used to the atmosphere of a Final Four. At the end of the first half the score was 34-25 Ohio State. Bill Self and his team have been a second half team all tournament long. The resilience of this group of players can not be questioned after watching their road to the championship. At the start of the second half KU seemed like a completely different team. They were energetic and were executing in their half court sets. Also, the shots that were not falling in the first half began to go in.
In the second half, both Thomas Robinson and Elijah Johnson were taking over the game. Thomas Robinson became his old dominant self again by scoring 11 points in the second half. Elijah Johnson was attacking the basket at will, mainly through transition. Johnson scored eleven points in the second half as well. Jeff Withey was a major difference maker on the defensive end in the second half as he neutralized Ohio State’s best player in Jared Sullinger with his length and shot blocking abilities. KU finished the comeback win in the final moments of game winning 64-62. It is to hard to give a game ball out because four players stood out equally. Travis Releford, for his glove like defense on senior William Buford, Thomas Robinson for his late game surge with continues baskets, Elijah Johnson with his 11 points in the second half, and Jeff Withey for shutting down one of the best big men in the country for an entire half. The game ball should ultimately go to Travis Releford for his work on both ends of the court. Along with his always great defense, he managed to contribute with 15 points.
Tyshawn Taylor continued his drought from the three point line now being 0-21 for the NCAA tournament. However, Travis Releford was a surprise offensively because he finished with fifteen points and seemed to score at crucial times for KU. Jeff Withey may have only finished with 4 points, but had seven blocks and altered many more shots. In the first half, Thomas Robinson was trying to force things offensively, which he cannot due in the next game against Kentucky.
KU will play for the National Championship Monday against the extremely young and talented, Kentucky Wild Cats. These two teams met earlier this season with Kentucky winning 75-65. Both Kentucky and Kansas are completely different teams since the pervious matchup. Kentucky has their offense working just as well a the defense has been all year. While most people proclaim the Wild Cats as a defensive team, the offensive development has caught up. While Kansas has had many players emerge since then with Elijah Johnson, Trevor Releford, and Jeff Withey, the battle will be an extremly tough one.
This will be the most talented team Kansas has played against all year. Kentucky has six first round picks on their roster and will have the first two picks for the 2012 NBA draft in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. For the Jayhawks to win, they will need to play a near perfect game. The first key for them is to get Anthony Davis in foul trouble which is a hard feat to accomplish. He has only fouled out of one game all season. Without their shot blocking machine, Kentucky has looked like a beatable team. Kentucky suffered its first loss of the year against Indiana and Anthony Davis was in foul trouble most of the game. The second key for Kansas is to out rebound Kentucky. This is tough task because of the athleticism Kentucky has on the court. The third and final key is to shoot the ball above 50% against Kentucky. If KU can accomplish these three keys, they will celebrate their another National Championship.