By Sam Levin
By Sam Levin
By Sam Levin
By Jessica Lussenhop
By Sam Levin
By Timothy Lane
By Sam Levin
By Dennis Brown
I like Ohio. I really do. But even without Kendall Marshall, North Carolina has such an enormous advantage down low I can't see the Bobcats winning this game. UNC is just too good on the boards, and unless the Bobcats just absolutely shoot the lights out, I think the Tarheels move on to the Final Four.
Still, if you're looking for a David to take down a Goliath, the one facing the giant with a wounded wrist isn't a bad place to start.
NC State vs. KU: What to Watch
The Kansas Jayhawks (29-6) came into the 2011 season feeling a little...overlooked. Sure, they had talent, but Kansas teams always have talent. What they didn't have was the usual amount of hype that follows around the Jayhawk program. Well, consider their stealth-contender status revoked.
The Jayhawks feature one of the best big men, and one of the best players period, in the nation in Thomas Robinson, the 6'10" forward who averaged almost 18 points and twelve rebounds per game this season and was a strong possibility for the NCAA Player of the Year award (won by Kentucky's Anthony Davis). Robinson already won POY in the Big XII, and deservedly so. Robinson is a true game-changer, capable of playing from virtually anywhere inside the arc.
What makes Kansas so deadly isn't just the presence of Robinson under the basket; it's the fact that he's paired with Jeff Withey, one of the few true seven-footers in the nation, and an outstanding player in his own right. Withey doesn't have the same kind of dominant numbers as Robinson, but he clears space underneath the net and then occupies it, forcing the opposition into poor positions and taking away a huge number of rebound chances.
Add in Tyshawn Taylor, the Jayhawks' talented senior guard who averaged 17.1 points and close to five assists a game, and you have a formidable formula for success. The Kansas formula starts inside, where they have the horses to physically dominate a game, but they have the capacity to beat you in nearly any phase of the game.
Against such a balanced attack, NC State (24-12) has to be considered heavy underdogs. That's not to say, however, the Wolfpack doesn't have the talent to hang with the Jayhawks.
In fact, NC State comes equipped with one of the better matchups for Thomas Robinson to be found in college basketball: sophomore forward C.J. Leslie, a 6'8" basketball machine who is still growing into his full potential. Leslie averaged 14.6 points per game this season, and added 7.5 rebounds as well. He doesn't have the same kind of dominating physicality of someone like Robinson, but Leslie does have a well-rounded game and the athleticism to guard Kansas' young superstar.
The Wolfpack doesn't stop with Leslie. They have two other very good players in Richard Howell, a 6'8" forward who led the team in rebounding with slightly better than nine per game, and DeShawn Painter, who plays center at 6'9" and adds another four rebounds per outing.
NC State doesn't score quite as well as the Jayhawks, but they actually rank better nationally in both assists per game and rebounding. And if the Wolfpack is going to pull off the upset, rebounding will likely be a huge factor. Maybe even the biggest. Kansas is a much better team overall than NC State, at least on paper, but there's a matchup problem working here in the Wolfpack's favor. They are one of only a handful of teams in the nation capable of playing on level footing with Kansas down low, and that removes a huge portion of the advantage the Jayhawks have on most of their opponents.
You want predictions?
Fine, I'll give you some picks. I'll warn you now, though, they aren't worth the paper you're currently reading them on.
North Carolina overcomes the loss of their point guard, taking advantage of their inside game to overpower Ohio. Final score: 73-60 Tarheels.
Meanwhile, in the late game, NC State surprises the Jayhawks early, and Kansas is unable to adjust until it's too late. The Wolfpack moves on. Final score: 76-72 Wolfpack.
In the North Carolina Classic (as it will come to be known in the years hence), the Wolfpack will play too big and too strong for UNC to beat up down low, and the diminished ball-handling abilities of Kendall Marshall prove to be the difference as the 'Heels struggle to move the ball effectively. North Carolina State moves on to New Orleans and a Final Four showdown with, um, someone else. Hey, I'm only interested in the St. Louis games. You want to know about the regional in Phoenix, you're just going to have to get another paper.
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