Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 10:56 AM
It's time to fill out the final two dance card spots for next week's Final Four in New Orleans - will we get a pair of #1 seeds here as Kentucky (South) and North Carolina (Midwest) attempt to navigate their way to "The Big Easy"?
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT - ELITE 8 / SUNDAY PREVIEWS
NCAA TOURNAMENT SOUTH REGIONAL FINAL - Georgia Dome - Atlanta, GA
#3 BAYLOR (30-7) vs. #1 KENTUCKY (35-2) - 2:20 p.m. ET, CBS
Maybe the single-most impressive part of Kentucky's Sweet 16 win against Indiana this past Friday night was that the Wildcats took the Hoosiers' best shots to the chin and still came out double-digit winners in a 102-90 rock-'em, sock-'em affair.
No doubt the early foul woes of F/C Anthony Davis - who still managed to post a 12-rebound game despite playing just 25 minutes against IU - could have dragged down John Calipari's club in that clash but instead the 'Cats got off 64 field-goal tries in all (remember that we said in a prior Jim Sez column that Kentucky needed to get right around 65 FGs to feel comfy there). Both Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (24 points) and the underrated Doron Lamb (21 points) were stars and now UK needs Davis to chime in here against a Baylor bunch that may be a tad too streaky for some folks' tastes but beware the Bears in the paint.
Baylor's Quincy Acy (20 points and 15 rebounds in the 75-70 non-cover Sweet 16 win against Xavier) surely set the mood in that game with his ferocious dunks and one note to Calipari here - your Kentucky guys better know where everyone is on in-bounds plays 'cause the Bears scorched the X-men for a batch of points in this critical area.
Throw in the fact Baylor big man Perry Jones III (14 points on 7-of-8 FG shooting but limited by foul woes against Xavier) was on the quiet side in that clash and you get the sense he'll be a much bigger factor here. Odds are that Scott Drew's club will be aggressive in trying to draw fouls on Davis and spread out the court more with Acy and Jones III getting one-on-one opportunities against other defenders. Remember Baylor was in the Elite 8 just two years ago and felt "jobbed" in a game against Duke - so there's some redemption factor stuff going on here.
The Las Vegas pointspread says Kentucky's a 7 ½-point fav here - and that might not be giving Baylor enough respect.
BAYLOR'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-15||Baylor||- 8||South Dakota State||Baylor 68-60|
|3-17||Baylor||- 8||Colorado||Baylor 80-63|
|3-23||Baylor||- 6.5||Xavier||Baylor 75-70|
KENTUCKY'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-15||Kentucky||- 26.5||Western Kentucky||Kentucky 81-66|
|3-17||Kentucky||- 12||Iowa State||Kentucky 87-71|
|3-23||Kentucky||- 9.5||Indiana||Kentucky 102-90|
NCAA TOURNAMENT MIDWEST REGIONAL FINAL - Edward Jones Dome - St. Louis, MO
#2 KANSAS (30-6) vs. #1 NORTH CAROLINA (32-5) - 5 p.m. ET, CBS
Please nobody ask North Carolina head coach Roy Williams whether or not superstar point guard Kendall Marshall is gonna play here - you'll probably get some surely/snarly response!
The truth is the Tar Heels probably cannot win this game without Marshall as their point guards are not offensive-minded enough although hats off to the TBS post-game guys (meaning Seth Davis) for pointing out that Stilman White did not commit a turnover in 32 minutes of action in that 73-65 overtime win against Ohio two nights ago.
It took some gut-check shot makes by the likes of Reggie Bullock (17 points) and Harrison Barnes (12 points on a 3-of-16 shooting night) to stiff-arm the Bobcats but wasn't it something that on a night the Heels shot a brutal 14-of-24 from the foul line it was the lone foul-line miss by Ohio (7-of-8 FTs made) with 25 seconds left in regulation that may have changed the complexion of this whole tourney?
Suffice to say, the Heels need Barnes to "be himself" here while big man Tyler Zeller (20 points and 22 rebounds) must make sure he does not get rattled when/if one of his in-close shots gets blocked.
On the flip side, Kansas continues to slog through this year's NCAA Tournament playing ultra-ugly basketball and not always making very heady decisions - we know PG Tyshawn Taylor (2-of-14 FG shooting for 6 points with 5 turnovers in Friday's hang-on-for-dear-life 60-57 non-cover win against N.C. State) has been rotten in this year's tourney but he always is capable of rising up and against a potential Marshall-less Carolina club you just might see the best Taylor has to offer here.
Obviously, the Jayhawks need shot-blocking C Jeff Withey (10 blocks against N.C. State) to be that last line of defense and somebody's gonna have to chip in points/boards to help out F Thomas Robinson (18 points and 15 boards against the Pack) who is getting really gassed at the end of all these games.
Maybe Kansas thinks winning "white knuckler" games throughout this tourney is the way to go - or maybe the hand of fate will point against Bill Self's gang one of these games.
KANSAS' NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-16||Kansas||- 13.5||Detroit||Kansas 65-50|
|3-18||Kansas||- 8||Purdue||Kansas 63-60|
|3-23||Kansas||- 8.5||N.C. State||Kansas 60-57|
NORTH CAROLINA'S NCAA TOURNAMENT GAMES
|3-16||North Carolina||- 16||Vermont||North Carolina 77-58|
|3-18||North Carolina||- 9.5||Creighton||North Carolina 87-73|
|3-23||North Carolina||- 10||Ohio||North Carolina 73-65 (ot)|
NOTE: Get our continuing coverage of the NCAA Tournament with Final Four News/Notes/Previews all coming next week plus there's lots more hoop goodies.