Mar 13, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Andrew Wiggins (22) celebrates after scoring during the second half against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the second round of the Big 12 Conference college basketball tournament at Sprint Center. Kansas won 77-70 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Big 12 NCAA Tournament Preview: No. 2 Kansas Vs. No. 15 Eastern Kentucky

Eight of the 10 Big 12 men’s basketball teams are headed to postseason tournament play this week. In addition to the seven conference teams that received bids to the this season’s NCAA Tournament, West Virginia is on of the 32 teams participating in the 2014 National Invitation Tournament.

The Mountaineers (17-15, 9-9), who may have played their worst game in the seven years Bob Huggins has been head coach at his alma mater in their 66-49 loss to Texas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament, will play at Georgetown (17-14) Tuesday night in the opening round of the NIT.

Beginning today, we will preview all of the second-round NCAA Tournament games involving Big 12 teams and offer up a predication on the outcome. We will continue this with every round in which one or more of the conference teams remains alive in the tournament.

Only one Big 12 team, Oklahoma, is scheduled in the Thursday-Saturday second-round bracket. The remaining six NCAA Tournament-bound teams will play second-round games on Friday.

We begin with the highest-seeded of the Big 12 teams: the Kansas Jayhawks, the No. 2 seed in the South Region.

Big 12 regular-season champion Kansas (24-9, 14-4) is matched up against the No. 15 seed Eastern Kentucky Colonels, who have the identical 24-9 overall record of Kansas and were the champions of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament this season. The Colonels knocked off the top-seed Belmont to win the Ohio Valley’s automatic tournament bid.

This is Eastern Kentucky’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007. The Colonels lost in the opening round to North Carolina that year. Eastern Kentucky is an excellent three-point-shooting team, with three players who shoot 40-percent or better from the three-point arc. As a team, the Colonels rank 23rd in Division I in three-point field-goal proficiency at 39 percent.

Kansas will be without seven-foot freshman center Joel Embiid, who is not expected to play in the Jayhawks second- and third-round games this weekend should the Jayhawks get by Eastern Kentucky on Friday. But head coach Bill Self is optimistic that his big presence at the rim would be able to play were Kansas to advance to the Sweet 16.

Even with Embiid out, though, the Jayhawks should have a height and length advantage over their opponent from the Bluegrass State, who has no one on the roster taller than 6-8. One scouting report on the Colonels says they are not a good rebounding team. This will not help them in an upset bid over Kansas, which is a good rebounding ream, with or without Embiid.

Eastern Kentucky is led in the scoring column by their backcourt tandem of Glenn Cosey and Corey Walden, who together average more than 30 points a game. Cosey leads the team in scoring with an 18-points-per-game average. Cosey is especially dangerous beyond the three-point line.

The Jayhawks are lead by their freshman sensation Andrew Wiggins, who is coming off of a tremendous Big 12 Tournament.  The 6-8 swingman had 30 points in Kansas’ quarterfinround win over Oklahoma State and 22 in a losing effort in the semifinals to eventual champion Iowa State. In the Jayhawks final regular-season game at West Virginia, Wiggins set fire to the nets with a career-high 41-point performance.

This is not Kansas’ best defensive team under Self, but they do defend well most of the time. If their is a weak link in the Jayhawks’ defensive play it is defending the perimeter. They are tough to go inside against, but teams that shoot well from the outside, like Iowa State, have given Kansas problems this season. And that just happens to be the strength of the Eastern Kentucky offense, which lacks size on the inside.

My pick: Kansas 75, Eastern Kentucky 61


Tags: 2014 NCAA Men's Tournament Andrew Wiggins Big 12 Basketball Bill Self College Basketball Eastern Ketucky Colonels Glenn Cosey Joel Embiid Kansas Jayhawks

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