The Kansas-Michigan Sweet 16 matchup on Friday in Arlington, Texas, offers a sharp contrast in styles between two of college basketball’s most tradition-laden programs. Big 12 co-champion Kansas (31-5) is making its 31st trip to the Sweet 16 in 42 overall NCAA Basketball Championship appearances. Michigan (28-7), easily dispensed with Virginia Commonweatlh – the same team that eliminated Kansas in the Midwest Region final two years ago - in last weekend’s round of 32. The victory sent the Wolverines to their 13th Sweet 16 appearance, where they have had great success historically, winning 10 of 12 games.
These two teams couln’t be more different in style and structure, a factor that makes this a most interesting and intriguing matchup. Michigan is a team built largely around talented, first- and second-year players. The Wolverwines like to push the ball and gear their offensive game plan around sophomore guard Trey Burke. The remainder of their starting five includes the sons of former NBA stars Tim Hardaway and Glenn Robinson III
Kansas is built much differently, with a starting five that includes four seniors and an exceptionally talented freshman in Ben McLemore. The Jayhawks are efficient on the offensive end, but they can be spectacular when it comes to playing defense, which is a huge reason for their success this season. Michigan is more offensively inclined and doesn’t seem to play much mind to holding down opposing offenses, preferring to try to outscore their opponents.
If Kansas gets by Michigan on Friday night, the Jayhawks will play the winner of the game betwen No. 2-seed Florida and this year’s NCAA Tournament Cinderalla team, Florida Gulf Coast University on Sunday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
“It’s gona be a great game, ” said KU’s McLemore. “They’re a great team.”
Said Kansas head coach Bill Self: We wanna cut down two more nets. And in order to cut down the next one, we gotta prepare to win a two-game tournament.”
Five Reasons why Kansas will win its NCAA Tournament game with Michigan
- Kansas’ experience will counter Michigan’s youth and quick-shooting artistry and create offensive opportunities off of the Wolverines miscues and impatience.
- Michigan’s National Player of the Year candidate Trey Burke likes to penetrate and take the ball to the basket. Short of that Burk, will use his moves off the dribble to create passing opportunities to open Wolverines. Jeff Withey’s prescence in the middle should short-circuit drives to the basket by Burke and other Michigan teammates, or at least alter the near the basket. If the Wolverines aren’t able to knock down their three-point shots, they will find it tough to score consistently on the glove-tight Kansas defense.
- Good offense will win you games, but good defense is what wins championships. Kansas has the much better defensive team. The Jayhawks rank first in the nation in field g0al percentage defense and fifth in defensive efficiency.
- Kansas freshman guard sensation Ben McLemore had 11 points in the Jayhawks’ opening-game win over Western Kentucky, but came up empty on 0 for 9 shooting against North Carolina. McLemore is KU’s scoring leader this season. Don’t look for him to go three games in a row scoring under his 15.8 points-per-game average.
- Crowd support. Arlington is only an eight-hour drive or 90-minute plane ride from Lawrence, Kan. Kansas basketball fans travel extremely well. If this were a football bowl game, things might be a bit different in terms of Michigan fans traveling to root on their team. I don’t dee that happening at the Jerry Jones Dome. Kansas fans will be there in mass, and their presence will be felt by the Jayhawk players, who thrive on the support of their passionate fans.
Game prediction: Kansas 68, Michigan 57
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