The Kansas Jayhawks begin what could be a very long March by taking on the 16th seeded Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. The Hilltoppers are making their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, with the same seed, and look to get a Cinderella story started with a win over Kansas. Both schools have met each other twice in the NCAA Tournament, Western Kentucky beating Kansas in 1971 and Kansas beating Western Kentucky in 1995. That stat may worry Jayhawk fans though this one won't. The last team to beat Western Kentucky went on to win the National Championship Game. That was last year. Kansas will not win because of historical stats or luck, but because they are the overall better team. Kansas is coming off a three-game sweep of Texas Tech, Iowa State and K-State and look to keep the momentum going with a win over Western Kentucky.
When: Friday, March 21, 9:50 PM ET
Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO
No injuries to report.
The Hilltoppers may not wield the most impressive backcourt the Jayhawks have faced, but they do have some talented guards. G T.J. Price (15.3 PPG-4.4) leads the way with a 36.2 three-point percentage and is accompanied by G Jamal Crook (12 PPG-4 APG) and G Brandon Harris (8.3 PPG-5.7 RPG)
Weakness: Interior Defense
Like most teams Kansas has faced, Western Kentucky does not defend well in the paint, at least against non mid-majors they don't. In the Hilltoppers four games against non mid-majors, Western Kentucky has allowed those teams to take 49% of their shots inside the paint where they hit close to 58%. Whether that stat holds any water, what does it the Jayhawks 63% field goal percentage in the paint.
No Injuries to Report
The Jayhawks frontcourt, by far, has taken the greatest upward trend than any other sector on this team. F Perry Ellis (5.8 PPG-3.8 RPG) has taken off since the Big 12 Tournament, averaging 14.3 points and 6 rebounds. C Jeff Withey (13.6 PPG-8.4 RPG-3.8 BPG) is on the verge of being named defensive player of the year and will likely be matching up with F George Fant (12.9 PPG-6.8 RPG) inside. Even F Jamari Traylor (2.1 PPG-2.2 RPG) is doing well, making 7 of 7 free throws since Feb. 11.
Weakness: Overall Inconsistency
The trouble with Kansas is that you can never tell what Jayahwk team you are going to get. Recent trends suggest that Kansas is prime to make a run, but Kansas has been giving all kinds of signs when they were ready to make a run, like in December, and Kansas did anything but a dominant sweep of the Big 12. Kansas looked like they were ready to win the Big 12 outright before playing Baylor, then they laid an egg. Kansas shouldn't have any trouble with Western Kentucky, but you never know.
For the second year in a row, a 16 seed has given a 1 seed a scare, last year being UNC Asheville and now this year being Southern. Will Kansas be the next victim of a near upset? Probably not. Kansas is playing in Allen Fieldhouse east with the obvious home field advantage and 5-0 record in Kansas City this season. Kansas will likely dominate in the paint while giving an equally impressive output on the defensive end. The only hope for Western Kentucky is that they will catch Kansas on an off-day.