NCAA Tournament 2013: Kansas Jayhawks Heading Back to the Sweet 16

Jamie Squire

For the second year in a row the Jayhawks have knocked the North Carolina Tar Heels out of the NCAA tournament. This year's win sends the Jayhawks on their way to the Sweet 16.

When the brackets were set a second round matchup between Kansas and North Carolina was the first thing noticed by both fanbases. The two programs are intertwined throughout history, but perhaps more lately with Roy Williams heading back to the Tar Heels after fifteen years as the Jayhawks head coach. Since that departure Bill Self and Kansas have won in the national semifinal and in a regional final. Today Bill Self and Kansas relied on a huge second half to overcome the Tar Heels and move Kansas to 3-0 over Williams and the Tar Heels in NCAA tournament play.

It was a struggle for 20 minutes. Kansas is a team that struggles offensively and they have had some serious droughts throughout the year. In the first half Kansas looked like a group of senior role players without a leader to take control and force the issue. Bad decisions, poor shooting and tight play plagued the Jayhawks through not only the first 20 minutes on Sunday afternoon, but really the first 60 minutes of play in this tournament. Fortunately for Kansas the Tar Heels have plenty of issues of their own.

The even better news is that Kansas did rally in the second half. For the first time during this years tournament Kansas was playing loose, they were moving the ball, hitting shots and looking like a Kansas team that uses great defense and sound offense to win basketball games. What once looked like a potential unceremonious ending to the 2013 season turned into a comfortable win on the way to Arlington Texas and the Sweet 16.

Kansas will most certainly need to improve heading into the second weekend of the tournament. Jeff Withey is the one player that has put together two complete games up until this point. Travis Releford was big in the second half against Carolina, but other than that their are plenty of players who can help shoulder the blame for the Kansas struggles.

Perhaps the player that can have the biggest impact and the one who completely disappeared this weekend is Ben McLemore. McLemore has been touted as a top 3 NBA draft pick but he has looked like a timid true freshman through one weekend of NCAA tournament action. With matchups against Michigan and potentially Florida on the horizon, Kansas is going to need McLemore and the rest of the team to start firing on all cylinders if they want to reach their second consecutive Final Four in Atlanta.

Today's win was a good grind it out rally by Kansas. The whole weekend was predicated on the defensive end. Kansas has now been to the Sweet 16 in six of the last seven years. That's a pretty successful program and Bill Self and the Jayhawks live to play another weekend of basketball which is really all you can hope for at this time of the year.

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