Mar 23, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Harrison Barnes (40) shoots against the Ohio Bobcats during the first half of the semifinals in the midwest region of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
Today Kansas takes on North Carolina for the second time since they hired Roy Williams in their first NCAA tournament meeting outside the Final Four. A win will put Kansas in the Final Four for the first time since 2008.
Key 1 - Attack the point guard
Whether or not Kendall Marshall will play right now is unknown (though I personally would be surprised if he doesn't) but either way the plan should be the same. Tyshawn Taylor needs to attack the lane, because neither he nor Stilman White can stay in front of him. Obviously the half court runs much more smoothly when Tyshawn can get into the lane, as he has become very good at shooting the little floater and he can easily dump it off or kick it out. Defensively, Stilman White isn't going to hurt Tyshawn. A full strength Kendall Marshall probably could, but one with only one good wrist? Probably not. I'm no Bill Self, but I think that it wouldn't be too difficult, in the half court at least, to push Marshall to his right and basically take him out of the game. Even though it is his non shooting hand I'd have to think that would affect his shot as well.
Key 2 - Slow Down (maybe)
Like Kansas, UNC is at its most effective when they try to run. And they run a lot: they were the 9th fastest team in the country and quickest in ACC play. Because of this, we obviously want to limit their running opportunities, especially if Marshall plays a prominent role. If White is the guy I think they can let the game get up and down a bit because we all saw how (relatively) ineffective they were at doing that on Friday night, and Kansas will need an up and down game to score a lot. But with Marshall in I think the plan is to play half court and push him to the right as much as possible.
Key 3 - Defensive Rebounding
It sucked on Friday, but they'll have to do well on Sunday to win the game. Carolina doesn't necessarily shoot the ball all that well, but they kill teams by not turning it over and grabbing offensive rebounds. They're the 9th best offensive rebounding team in the country at 40.1%, with Tyler Zeller leading the way at 14.3%. They'll be up against the best defensive rebounder in the country, but Robinson will have to have a vintage night for Kansas to accomplish this task.
Key 4 - Win the foul battle inside
Normally getting to the line is more of a secondary goal, but tonight it will be huge. Each team features a very good offensive player (Zeller, Robinson) and a very good defensive one (Henson, Withey). I would give the slight edge to Kansas's duo when matched up together, but if one team can get the other's big men off the court for long stretches, I don't see any way that team loses the game. For the record, KU's pair commit 4.1 (Withey) and 3.5 (Robinson) fouls per 40, with UNC's pair at just 3.9 (Zeller) and 2.1 (Henson). But that does take the whole season into account, and both Robinson and Withey have been a lot better as of late.
Key 5 - Make Harrison Barnes beat you with two point jumpers
Barnes came to UNC with a ton of fanfare, but was noticeably absent from the game against Ohio on Friday. It is human nature to want to make up for that, so there's little doubt in my mind he'll come out firing on Sunday. While he is Carolina's best three point shooter at 37%, he struggles in most other areas. His percentage from 2 is just 47%, thanks to ghastly numbers on two point jumpshots: according to Hoop Math he takes nearly half his shots in the form of two point jumpers, but only 17% of those are assisted on and and he's shooting just 33% on jumpers from two. If he can beat Kansas by taking twos with Releford in his face, I can live with that.