SOUTH REGION (North Texas)
Eamonn Brennan: Florida over Michigan
Fran Fraschilla: Florida over Kansas
John Gasaway: Kansas over Florida
Seth Greenberg: Kansas over Florida
Andy Katz: Michigan over Florida
Jason King: Kansas over Florida
Myron Medcalf: Michigan over Florida Gulf Coast
Dana O'Neil: Michigan over Florida Gulf Coast
Bruce Pearl: Kansas over Florida
Robbi Pickeral: Florida over Kansas
Dick Vitale: Michigan over Florida
ESPN Expert Picks (other regions at the link)
Where are the fans of the Sweet 16 teams?
Where you’d expect them to be, near the schools, but some programs tend to break out of their regions, at least when it comes to Facebook users.
The proof is in these maps, which track the more than 1 million Facebook users who liked a page of one of the 16 remaining teams in the NCAA Tournament.
There's also a map of Facebook users who like Kansas and Michigan, opponents in Friday’s South Region semifinal in Arlington, Texas.
Who knew the Jayhawks are liked in Maine?
ESPN Numbers to Know for Friday's Matchups
Size vs. speed.
Is this game that simple?
Well, yeah, it probably is.
Top-seeded Kansas will look to use its interior bulk to push and pound Michigan all evening, while the Wolverines hope to counter their size disadvantage by forcing the Jayhawks to play on the run all night long.
Much like Michigan's round of 32 matchup against Virginia Commonwealth, this is another tale of two styles. Which one wins? We'll find out Friday night (7:37 p.m., TBS) at Cowboys Stadium, when the winner will punch a ticket to the Elite Eight on Sunday.
Here's a look inside a few intriguing matchups for Michigan-Kansas:
Mlive (Both writers pick KU to win)
Detroit Free Press: Michigan vs Kansas - Who has the edge? (Predicted winner: Kansas)
Michigan's reserves accounted for just five total points in the two Tournament games; their contribution is more with providing short breaks for the starters and playing steady defense. Jon Horford and Jordan Morgan — who has had his role reduced — will have an increased role with trying to match Kansas' Jeff Withey. Spike Albrecht can be a spark either with Burke or if he needs a rest. Kansas gets bigger contributions from guard Naadir Tharpe, who tied his season high with 12 points vs. North Carolina. Six-foot-8 freshman Perry Ellis is capable of big numbers. If McLemore doesn't find his shooting touch, look for more scoring help off the Jayhawks' bench. Edge: Kansas
Detroit News: Matchups - Michigan vs Kansas
Detroit News Predictions: All Kansas
"If I can slow him down, then I can slow down Glenn (Robinson III), I can slow down the whole team," Johnson acknowledged. "They can't run without him getting out and doing it."
This isn't the first time Burke's had a target on his back in a game. In fact, it's pretty much been there since the midway point of his freshman season.
Teams have thrown size at Burke, they've face-guarded him, trapped him, doubled him, bodied him -- there's really nothing he hasn't seen at this point.
And though Kansas will throw two extremely experienced players at him Friday (7:37 p.m., TBS), Burke says he'll be prepared.
"I try to play off what the defense gives me," he said. "Just watching a lot of film on Kansas I see that they're really a good defensive team.
"I'll have to just try to find ways to attack their defense and try to find ways to get into the paint and hit the open defenders."
Kansas coach Bill Self has already stated that he voted for Burke as the national player of the year, and together with Tim Hardaway Jr., he believes Michigan has the best backcourt his team will see this season.
While McGary has become the source of Michigan's energy on the court, teammates say he's also been instrumental in keeping the team loose off it. That's something the Wolverines struggled with last year, when they were bounced by 13th-seeded Ohio in their tournament opener.
"The tournament last year, I don't know what it was, but just as a team there was a weird feeling," sophomore forward Jon Horford said. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I love those guys, some great players and everything -- and I can't even say we weren't prepared, because I feel we were prepared. But mentally, as a team, we just weren't there."
And this year?
"Dude, we're just having fun," he said. "We're just saying, 'Don't complicate things, it's just a game. It's literally just the game of basketball, and we can't take things too seriously.'
"This is supposed to be fun."
If Ben McLemore is smiling tonight, Michigan's basketball team is in deep trouble.
McLemore is Kansas' supremely talented 6-foot-5 freshman guard, who wasn't much of a factor during last weekend's NCAA tournament games.
After averaging 17.4 points and hitting 51.5% of his shots and looking like a one-and-done player in Big 12 play this season, McLemore seemingly forgot how to shoot last weekend.
In a seven-point win over Western Kentucky, McLemore was 2-for-5 for 11 points -- and missed both of his three-point attempts -- in 32 minutes. Against North Carolina, he was 0-for-9, missing all six of his three-point attempts, and scored only two points in 24 minutes.
So what does he do tonight when Kansas plays Michigan with the winner advancing to Sunday's Elite Eight game?
"Coach told me I have to smile more like I did earlier in the season," McLemore said Thursday. "Coach said he hasn't seen a smile on my face the last couple weeks. Everybody knows when I'm on the court I've got a big smile on my face. I've been having fun, so I definitely agree with him. I just have to go out there and play my game, which is have fun and be more assertive and not worry about making mistakes."
Detroit Free Press
"It's big out there; it's very difficult to shoot with the crowd that far behind the basket. We played on elevated courts before, at Minnesota, so we're used to that," Tim Hardaway Jr. said. "We just have to do a great job of shooting the ball very well. We know we rely on shooting a lot for this team and it was good to see the ball go in."
After he warmed up, Hardaway converted 15 of 16 3-pointers during one drill and found his range after making some adjustments. Hardaway shot 13-of-24 combined in the first two Tournament games and is tied for the team high with 35 points.
Coach John Beilein said the Wolverines got a little early shooting in, which helped prep them for the main workout at the stadium.
"We practiced around the corner at (University of) Texas-Arlington and then we came over here and shot again," Beilein said. "I didn't see any difference and we were practicing in their little practice gym."
Opened in 2009, Cowboys Stadium is the largest domed stadium in the world, with a centerpiece high-definition video scoreboard that stretches from 20-yard line to 20-yard line on the football field.
Given the stadium's mammoth size and the spacious interior, making shooting adjustments won't be difficult; the players said they do it all the time when they visit different arenas around the country.
"A lot of people were saying it was going to be hard to make shots, but I don't think so, because that's all mental," Trey Burke said.
…Michigan played in Barclays Center in Brooklyn and at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan earlier in the season, but Cowboys Stadium is a completely different experience.
"It's definitely a bigger environment — it's a football arena and one of the bigger football arenas," Burke said, "so I think we got a really good feel for the rims today and we'll be ready for tomorrow."
Kansas coach Bill Self said the Jayhawks have played a few times in football arenas but with both teams playing on the same court, any perceived disadvantages go both ways.
"The last one we played in St. Louis; also, we got a chance to play in a dome in the regional and in the dome in New Orleans. We've got four dome games under our belt and what that means is absolutely nothing. But you never know," Self said.
Freshman guard Nik Stauskas acknowledged that for a few minutes, he struggled to find his stroke, but after adjusting, said it was fine.
“I was out there hitting shots, and I said, ‘It’s a great shooter’s gym,’ ” Stauskas said.
And Michigan’s ability to shoot the 3-ball could determine the outcome of Friday’s game with the Jayhawks (14-4 Big 12, 31-5). At just under four blocks per game — with a host of additional altered shots — Kansas’ seven-foot center Jeff Withey makes scoring inside the paint tough for his opponents.
“You run a beautiful play, it couldn't be run better, and he somehow blocks the shot,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “It can be very deflating to a team.”
Robinson compared the Jayhawks front line to that of a Big Ten team, specifically comparing them to Michigan State in the way they crash the boards.
That’s why redshirt sophomore forward Jon Horford explained that controlling the defensive glass and limiting Kansas’ second-chance opportunities is the key to winning.
“Kansas lives off that stuff,” Horford said. “A miss and they just grab it, put it in, grab it, kick it out for a three. We’ve got to stop all of that.”
"My biggest concern tomorrow night is definitely Jeff Withey," Trey Burke said. "A lot of our offense is built around our guards getting into the paint, and things change quite a bit when there's a 7-footer in there.
"If we play like we normally play, we're going to end up with a lot of blocked shots and a lot of bad shots."
As Michigan's top ballhandler, Burke knows he's going to be the one coming face-to-chest with Withey more than anyone.
"I need to make the right decisions when I'm in the lane and so do my teammates," Burke said. "That's probably the biggest key to the game for us — we really need to make smart decisions when we are inside."
On the other hand, Burke and friends should be able to make those decisions without the pressure they faced from Big Ten defenses or even from VCU on Saturday. The Jayhawks don't force many turnovers, so Michigan's ability to take care of the ball should be even higher on Friday night.
Fox Sports Detroit
KUAD: Kansas previews Michigan (Video at the link)
KC Star Photos
LJW Newell picks Michigan to win
BOTTOM LINE: Kansas coach Bill Self is 7-2 in the Sweet 16, including a 6-0 mark when his team is the better seed. After the NCAA Tournament’s opening week, Michigan became a trendy Final Four pick. But if the Jayhawks can contain Trey Burke, their toughness and veteran experience could be the difference in a close game.
KC Star: Looking Back at Bill Self's Sweet 16 Appearances
Ben McLemore stood behind the three-point line and confidently swished long-range shot after long-range shot during Kansas University’s 40-minute shoot-around on Thursday in cavernous Cowboys Stadium.
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound freshman from St. Louis looked more like the guy who has averaged 15.8 points a game off 49.4 percent shooting entering today’s 6:37 p.m. NCAA South Regional Sweet 16 game against Michigan than the one who went 2-for-14 and scored 13 points total in last weekend’s second- and third-round victories over Western Kentucky and North Carolina.
“Coach (Joe, assistant) Dooley pointed out that I usually shoot with my fingers spread apart. But he said lately that he’s been seeing me shoot with my fingers close together, which is probably why some of my shots were long. He got me shooting back to normal,” McLemore said, explaining some technical issues that may have caused his recent shooting woes.
“Coach said I was shooting a flat shot. When I do that, the ball is like a line drive or long. He said I was having a quick release instead of shooting the regular shot I shoot. I’ve been in the gym, getting extra shots with coach Dooley and (Kurtis) Townsend, and now it’s looking good.”
McLemore explained the fixed glitch in his shot to wave after wave of reporters who approached him during a 30-minute media session in a locker room in the NFL stadium.
He nixed the notion that there are any other reasons for his having made one of his last 12 threes over the last three games for the Jayhawks (31-5). Some have gone so far as to speculate McLemore’s mind may already be in the NBA, where he’s expected to be a top-three pick in the June draft.
“There wasn’t anything outside of basketball, as far as (anybody) talking to me and getting in my ear. I just had a few off nights. I just missed some shots,” McLemore said. “I still did some other things to help my teammates out (like hit nine of 10 free throws in the two NCAA wins). I got some rebounds (11) and things like that.
“When I start missing shots, people think something’s wrong or that something’s going on away from the court. That wasn’t the deal at all. I was just missing shots. I just need to go back out there and play free again.”
He said the NBA issue is far from his mind.
“Right now, I don’t know at this point in time (if he’ll enter draft). I’m just trying to focus on this year,” McLemore said, repeating the stance he’s taken all season. “It’s just a blessing to be here, so right now at this point I don’t know.”
On the floor of Cowboys Stadium, Kansas guard Ben McLemore could not wait to take shots. McLemore let the ball fly from 15 feet, then 20, and immediately called for another ball. He flicked his wrist over and over, keeping his elbow up to provide the necessary arc.
But McLemore missed 6 of 8 in one stretch. Then 7 of 10 clanged off the rim.
“Just shoot it, Ben,” commanded the assistant Kurtis Townsend, who was standing behind McLemore. A few minutes later, another assistant, Joe Dooley, stood behind McLemore, giving out nods and praise as the ball started to strip the nets.
…“He was throwing darts — he wasn’t shooting the ball,” Dooley said. The Wolverines, who have won two tournament games by an average of 20 points, have a skilled group of perimeter players: guards Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Nik Stauskas, and swingman Glenn Robinson III. They are playing much better offensively than McLemore and the senior Elijah Johnson, who is shooting only 2 of 12 in the tournament.
…The Jayhawks will not release birth dates of players, but two starters are fifth-year seniors and two others are seniors. Michigan starts three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior.
That advantage will not be worth much if McLemore and Johnson continue to struggle.
“This is when the tournament starts now, when everybody’s got a name to ’em,” Johnson said. “This is where it’s just fun, let it go, just play.”
When the Jayhawks practiced Thursday at SMU, the Mustangs’ coach, Larry Brown, was around to encourage McLemore to have fun.
When the Jayhawks got acclimated to Cowboys Stadium, Self let McLemore be the last to dunk on his own.
And, when Self was asked whether McLemore would recover against Michigan, the coach was not bashful.
“He’s going to play great. I really believe that,’’ Self said. “And I think he believes that.’’
McLemore should. He is a streaky shooter, but when he is hot, he’s among the best players in the country. So good, in fact, he is still projected to be a high draft pick.
Big money awaits. Now is the time, though, to have fun and potentially extend the Jayhawks’ season. To do that, McLemore must be himself.
“I don’t really believe that there’s a million voices. I think there’s one voice, primarily, and it’s his own,’’ Self said. “He needs to understand that he’s good. He’s really good. When he’s really good, he’s as good as there is. That’s what I believe he’s got to believe going into tomorrow.’’
Self said McLemore's issues are common for freshmen -- especially those who spend most of their season under a national magnifying glass.
A year ago at this time, McLemore was an obscure freshman whom no one cared about, buzzed about or spoke about during his redshirt season in Lawrence. Twelve months later, the soft-spoken shooter from St. Louis can't escape the spotlight that has only gotten brighter during the NCAA tournament.
Some scouts have predicted that McLemore will be the No. 1 pick in this summer's NBA draft. Last week he was on a regional cover of Sports Illustrated, and he and Self took part in a national television interview.
"I think this is all new for him," Self said. "The attention is new, the stage is new. I think he's growing into it. It's been good for him.
"I've said a few things to him. I hope I've done a decent job of freeing his mind up. He needs to realize he's a terrific player. He's had a great year. He needs to go have fun and enjoy the opportunity and not look back and say, 'What if?'"
McLemore has been trying all week to do just that.
But it hasn't been easy.
Fans posting on Internet message boards and radio talk show hosts have questioned whether McLemore is playing poorly because he knows NBA scouts are watching his every move, thus creating added pressure. Others have opined that McLemore is mentally checked out and focusing more on the money he will make as a pro.
Because he's passive and soft-spoken off the court, McLemore's toughness has been questioned, too. Could it be a sign of weakness that McLemore is floundering -- and not flourishing -- in high-stakes games?
McLemore said he has heard all the gossip. Some of it makes him chuckle.
“The way you play Michigan is probably similar to the way you’d want to guard (North) Carolina because they play four guards,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “Michigan is basically playing four guards.”
Consequently, Self said, “It comes down to not necessarily how one guy guards one, it’s how any of your guys guard that individual when he has the ball, because there could be a lot of switching involved.”
Burke ensures Michigan doesn’t give away possessions. Withey enables perimeter defenders to play boldly.
“Having Jeff back there, we know we can push them out,” Johnson said of how Kansas defends. “And if they want to catch the ball at half court, we’re cool with that. Or, if they want to back-door, which a lot of people don’t try, just seeing Jeff down there, you know, we don’t appreciate it as much as we probably should because we’ve been playing with him for four years.”
Kansas will try to keep Burke from getting to the paint, and if Johnson has trouble, Naadir Tharpe and Releford are available as options. Once Burke gets to the paint, Withey will dictate what happens next.
Before moving on to college, Tharpe and McGary played together for one season at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H.
“We had a real good relationship,” Tharpe said. “He’s a good guy, a funny dude, and he plays hard. He’s always played like that from when I knew him at Brewster to what I see of him now. Nothing has changed.”
Nothing, including the fact that the former teammates still like to give each other a hard time. About 30 minutes before the KU locker room doors opened to the media, McGary was asked in Michigan headquarters what he remembered about KU’s sophomore point guard.
“I just saw him and said, ‘What’s up?’” said McGary of Tharpe, with the kind of smile that seemed to indicate he wanted to say more. “We played prep school ball together my senior year, and he’s a clown. He’s one of my good buddies, and it’s gonna be a good match-up, him and Elijah Johnson against Trey (Burke). Should be fun.”
When told the freshman McGary, 6-foot-10, 250 pounds, affectionately referred to him as a clown, Tharpe’s face lit up.
“He’s definitely much more of a clown than me,” Tharpe replied. “I actually got a chance to see him just before we walked in and got to tell him that he had been playing good and that hopefully he doesn’t play as good (against us).”
McGary, who shined one summer during an AAU event at Allen Fieldhouse, considered joining Tharpe in Lawrence.
“Yeah, I did,” said McGary, who has started both NCAA Tournament games for the Wolverines and is averaging seven points and six rebounds in 18 minutes per game. “(KU) coach (Bill) Self and Joe Dooley and Danny Manning talked to me, and I took an unofficial visit after that Jayhawk Invitational tournament. It was a good visit, but it wasn’t the best fit for me.”
Seven-foot Kansas center Jeff Withey couldn’t help but do a double-take when he spotted Michigan’s Mitch McGary in the bowels of Cowboys Stadium Friday.
“He’s not as tall as I thought,” Withey said of the 6-foot-10 McGary. “But he definitely looks strong.”
Withey may have a few inches on McGary, but there aren’t many players in all of college basketball as thick and strong and agile as the UM freshman, who weighs 250 pounds.
“I guess I kind of have a football mentality,” McGary said. “I played it growing up, but that’s my mentality. I’m just a hard-nosed, blue-collar guy who likes to do the nitty-gritty stuff.”
The attitude is fitting for where McGary plays, as Michigan natives have always adored physical bruisers such as Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman and Rick Mahorn.
McGary certainly commanded Withey’s attention during film sessions last week.
“Just how physical he is and how hard he plays,” said Withey when asked what impressed him the most about McGary. “He loves to dive after loose balls and he loves to screen people. He likes to hit [people].
“I’m used to getting hit and whatnot. I’m not worried about that.”
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self finds it hard to believe Michigan of the rugged Big Ten Conference enters today’s 6:37 p.m. NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game against Kansas as merely a 4 seed.
“How many 4 seeds could you say three weeks ago could be No. 1 in the country?” Self said of the 28-7 Wolverines, who went 12-6 in league play. “They are fast, skilled on the perimeter, a load inside (with 6-10 Mitch McGary). They defend well and are well coached, which all teams are if you are playing this weekend.
“We have three terrific teams that all could be 1 seeds here (KU, Michigan, Florida) and a team that has captured everyone’s imagination and as fun to watch as anyone (Florida Gulf Coast),” he added.
“I don’t think there’s a better team out there when they play their best than Kansas. I don’t think there’s a better team out there when they play their best than Michigan.”
At the bottom of Kansas’ team poster, which features the Jayhawks’ four seniors, sits the message in small type.
The motto is brief and to the point: Rosters Change, Expectations Don’t.
For Kansas basketball, expectations always run high. And why shouldn’t they?
The Jayhawks (31-5), who open the NCAA South Regional against Michigan (28-7) at 6:37 p.m. Friday at Cowboys Stadium, have advanced to the Sweet 16 for the 16th time since 1990. KU is one of three No. 1 seeds remaining in the tournament. Being a No. 1 seed has almost become old hat in Lawrence, Kan. Only twice since 1990 has Kansas been seeded lower than fourth.
Yes, winning is expected at Kansas, but not just by its passionate fan base. Coach Bill Self opened the season Oct. 12 by reminding a packed crowd at Allen Fieldhouse that “rosters change, expectations don’t.”
KU’s players are lured by the winning tradition and carry the same high expectations as their fans. No Sweet 16? Unacceptable. No Final Four? No way. About the only reasonable finish for most Jayhawks fans is in the NCAA Championship game.
“I think it’s a good thing,” KU senior Kevin Young said Thursday before the Jayhawks practiced in front of several thousand fans at Cowboys Stadium. “It pushes us as players. No matter whose name is on the back of the jersey it doesn’t matter, it still says Kansas on the front. I think we take a lot of pride in that.”
…“We know it’s our last go-around and we’re not going to take it for granted,” he said. “A lot of times you could take being in the Sweet 16 for granted, even a couple minutes on the floor you can’t take for granted. You don’t get that time back, so you’ve got to always go hard. We know that, and we’re going to play like that.”
McLemore, who leads KU with a 15.8 scoring average, said moments like this are why he chose to be a Jayhawk.
“That’s why I came here, to be in situations like this and play in big games like this,” he said. “KU is a great program and the fans are great and the support system is great. The players really bond together as a real family. That’s what we are, we’re a big family. When you come to KU you expect big things.”
FW Star Telegram
"He makes the easiest plays hard," KU coach Bill Self says, "and makes the hardest plays look easy."
Gotta be the fro, right?
Never mind that Young has always been like this, the bouncy child in a multi-cultural family in southern California. Young's maternal grandparents were born in Puerto Rico, and his step-grandfather was half Mexican and half Irish, and his mother, Alicia Morales, always wanted her son to be friendly and open to everything life has to offer.
"That's just the way I was raised," Young says.
Never mind that Morales always had to get her son on a local basketball court or a running track, lest he return home in the evening with a full tank of fuel to burn.
"I thought he had A.D.D. when he was young," Morales says. "He was so hyper all the time."
And never mind that Young's basketball style, an unconventional mix of hustle, athleticism and unbridled joy, fits his eccentric personality. Young is a college senior who enjoys reading up on forgotten Civil Rights leaders and studying the differences between religions. And he once agreed to take part in a KU fraternity's charity event that ended up with Young getting a pie in the face.
"Kevin is like the younger brother that finds out something and he has to tell you," KU junior Justin Wesley says. "Every little thing he finds out, he wants to tell you about. Even when you don't feel like talking, he'll still finish his point and still finish his story.
"His personality is just one of a kind. I've never met anyone that just has as much energy as he does. He's just always happy all the time."
He’s been through so much at KU. The loss to Northern Iowa as a freshman. The run to the national championship game last year. He knows how this works. Knows the rules. Knows that college basketball teams are disproportionately judged on this small sample size. Knows what that means for him, the senior point guard who has been such an integral part of his team’s highs (39 points in a nationally televised win at Iowa State) and lows (nine-for-37 shooting over KU’s three-game losing streak).
“I don’t feel like we’ve played (well) yet,” Johnson says. “And I don’t think that’s how this year will end, so I feel like we’ll play.”
He is talking about this tournament specifically, and emphasizes himself as part of why the team hasn’t played well yet. This is the man Johnson has grown into. Team-first. Accountable. Confident through rough stretches.
He hit just one of six shots in each of KU’s wins over Western Kentucky and North Carolina in the first two rounds, with a total of six assists and five turnovers. Johnson says the misses are more about him than anything those teams did defensively.
“It’s been me defending myself,” he says.
This is such a complicated place for Johnson. He understands coach Bill Self’s definition of a point guard, and that the game “is in slow motion to me right now,” but also that the transition from shooting guard is “definitely way tougher than I thought it would be.”
This is a surprise. Johnson has always been adaptable. That’s one of the things that’s defined him, and not just in basketball. He grew up around danger in Gary, Ind., then moved to the possibilities of Las Vegas. Throw in frequent visits to family in Atlanta, and Marcus Johnson likes to say his son proved he can play and get along in most any environment.
KC Star Mellinger
The matchup — a lightning-quick sophomore vs. a senior with scars on his knee — would seem to favor the Wolverines, and Johnson won’t try to persuade anyone who thinks Michigan will be the team to advance.
“What’s a person without an opinion?” he said. “I can’t be mad at them about an opinion. Of course I’m biased — I’ve got on a Kansas jacket — but everybody’s entitled to an opinion.”
People have opinions about Johnson, too, and usually aren’t shy about expressing them. Johnson tries to steer clear of social media, a lesson he learned from former KU point guard Tyshawn Taylor, but he’s not oblivious.
Johnson’s mother, Yolanda Brown, tries to stay away from the Internet, too. But she watched the games, and she knew better than most what her son was going through.
“Yes, it was hard,” Brown said. “It was hard to watch. I felt for him. But at the same time, I had to keep him encouraged.”
The compliments were flying at Michigan’s Trey Burke from all directions Thursday. People telling him he is great. People telling him he is the best point guard in America.
Then, someone asked Burke if, after Friday’s NCAA South Regional semifinal against Kansas (6:37 p.m. on TBS), this will be the moment the entire country knows his name.
Burke smiled, tilted his head back into the TV lights and answered carefully.
“I think the Big Ten is one of the, if not the best conference in the country,” Burke said. “Night in and night out we’ve seen some of the top talent, whether it’s a top five team or a team not ranked in the top 25. I think that’s prepared us for the postseason.”
Leading up to the dismantling of VCU, many national experts felt the Rams would be tough competition for Michigan. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas even picked them to go to the Final Four.
Not with Burke on the court. The 6-foot, 190 pounder had 17 points and seven assists against VCU’s full-court press as the Wolverines advanced to play KU.
“He’s always in attack mode,” Tharpe said. “He’s always trying to have the defender on his heels.”
While Burke has been the standout player for Michigan this season, the Wolverines have had their slipups, particularly against Big Ten teams that excel defensively. Take Michigan State for example, a team that’s not too different from KU.
“I think we’re similar teams,” KU assistant coach Norm Roberts said. “Probably more on the perimeter because of our length and strength.”
The Jayhawks have to handle a Michigan team that relies on its perimeter play. The Wolverines lost at Michigan State 75-52 and won at home 58-57 — two low scoring games for a high-scoring team.
Michigan gets Burke going both in transition and off high ball screens that allow him to get into the lane. The challenge of defending those screens is something KU has seen before.
“We’ve had to guard similar actions all year,” Roberts said. “When you’re playing (Iowa State) with Korie Lucious, we had to guard (Aaron) Craft early in the year at Ohio State and they do some spread ball screens. Kansas State does some ball screens with (Angel) Rodriguez whose very fast.”
Social Roundup: Most "talked about" games of the first weekend (KU vs UNC #2)
KU Digital Guide for the Sweet 16
A new block of single-session tickets for tonight’s games were made available late Friday by the NCAA. The tickets (priced at $110, $85, $60 and $45) are available at 800-745-3000.
The previous allotment of single-session tickets sold out as of Thursday. All-session tickets (good for tonight’s games and Sunday’s South Regional final) remain available.
Tickets Available for South Regional
3/24/13, 8:20 PM
Fans coming to North Texas for the #NCAA South Regional hosted by #Big12 - purchase parking for Cowboys Stadium here: http://www.ticketmaster.com/Cowboys-Stadium-Parking-tickets/artist/1297081
The Arlington Convention Center will be the headquarters for KU fans. The pregame party will start at 2:30 p.m., with the pep rally slated for 4:30 p.m. The KU pep band, spirit squad and mascot will perform at the pep rally.
Concessions, cash bars and parking ($20 per car) are available on site. There is no charge for admission, and the convention center is within walking distance of Cowboys Stadium.
The KU Alumni Association, Kansas Athletics and KUStore.com will be set up at the pregame party. Be sure to show your Alumni Association membership card at our table and receive a free members-only gift! If you're not a member, visit www.kualumni.org/join to join today. Print your purchase receipt and show it to staff members to receive your gift.
If you don't have tickets to the game, head to our official watch site in Arlington, Humperdink's, to watch the game with fellow Jayhawks.
The University of Michigan has more than 500,000 alumni around the world and a particularly strong following throughout Texas. Michigan’s alumni association has multiple clubs across the country, but one of their strongest bases calls Dallas home.
“The club in the Dallas area is one of several really active ones,” Bradley Whitehouse, the senior communications coordinator for the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan , said via email. “As many as 200 alumni attend the regular game-watching parties that the Dallas club hosts for football and basketball.”
This showed at yesterday’s shoot around and media day, where a majority of people in attendance sported Michigan gear.
“Our alumni are known to travel to big games,” Whitehouse said. “And with several thousand living in the Dallas area, there should be a lot of maize and blue in the stands on Friday.”
Florida and Florida Gulf Coast fan bases will be significantly lopsided. The Gators will have a large advantage over the Eagles when it comes to the crowd. Even though many in Cowboys Stadium will be cheering for the underdog, it will still be hard for Florida Gulf Coast to compete.
Texas is home to more than 10,000 University of Florida alumni, the fifth-largest state alumni base of the more than 45,000 registered alumni. A majority of Texas’ Gator alumni, nearly 3,500, live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — more than any other city in Texas.
And although 62 percent of Florida’s alumni reside in Florida, the alumni association and Gator Club are excited to have the opportunity to host a pre-game event at Buffalo Wild Wings in Arlington.
“We have so many alumni living in the state that never get to see the Gators come to their state,” Scott Francis, director of Broaden Gator Engagement, said in an email.
Despite not being considered one of the “blue bloods,” Florida has a strong following and expects a strong showing in Jerry World tomorrow.
Sons of Coaches: Jayhawk Trio Took Time Before Deciding to Walk-On at Kansas
Marcus and Markieff Morris, Kansas
The twins now have two college enemies — Missouri and Virginia Commonwealth.
Their Kansas Jayhawks were upset as a No. 1 seed in 2010 by Northern Iowa in the second round but ending their career with an Elite Eight loss to VCU the next year stung worse.
“I’ll never forget that — ever, ever,” Markieff said. “It’s worse than we lost to Northern Iowa. It was our team. It’s always worse when it’s on your shoulders.
“We would’ve kicked Butler in the ass and beat UConn and would’ve been the No. 1 and No. 2 picks. We lost to a bunch of bums that made shots. I still hope they (VCU) lose every game.”
Nothing soothed them until NBA draft night.
“They got hot and had the crowd and the refs,” Marcus said. “Everything was against us. I wish I would’ve shot more and took over the game more. I didn’t pass to Keef enough.”
Markieff said, “And I didn’t pass to him enough.”
Brad Witherspoon wasn't quite ready to call the game over. But he was awfully close.
With the Kansas Jayhawks trailing Memphis 60-51 with 2 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the 2008 national championship game, Witherspoon sat with his teammates at the end of the KU bench and tried to come up with plausible ways the Jayhawks could still win. He realized the odds were daunting.
"I don't want to say that I gave up, but anybody knows that when you're down nine with two minutes and 10 seconds left, you need some miracles to happen," said Witherspoon, who was a senior forward on that team.
The Jayhawks, of course, got their miracle.
Memphis missed 4 of 5 free throws in the final 75 seconds, and Mario Chalmers made one of the most famous shots in NCAA Tournament history when he swished a 3-pointer from just to the right of the top of the key with 2.1 seconds to go. That tied the game at 63, and KU won the game 75-68 in overtime.
"I knew once that shot went in we were going to win," Witherspoon said. "The momentum in the building shifted."
In addition to providing Witherspoon with a memory to last a lifetime, that game taught Witherspoon something he tries to instill in basketball players today in his role as a men's basketball assistant coach at John Wood Community College.
"Keep fighting, keep fighting, you never know what could happen," Witherspoon said.
…"(That game against Memphis) is just a teaching point that if they miss some free throws and we make some shots, it's a different game," Witherspoon said. "It doesn't matter how much time is on the clock."
The 2007-08 KU season also taught Witherspoon another important lesson — that nothing is ever as bad as it might seem.
KU started that season 20-0 before losing three Big 12 games in span of seven games in late January and February.
"Being from Kansas and being from Lawrence, Kan., that's like everyone's church, Allen Fieldhouse," said Witherspoon, who graduated from Humboldt High School, about 90 miles south of Lawrence. "We're the pastors you could say. So when we lose three of (seven), it's like the Earth is stopping and the sun is not going to come up."
The Jayhawks called a players-only team meeting after that skid.
"The message was just to not let this turn into more than what it is," said Witherspoon, who spent two years as an assistant at Culver-Stockton College before coming to JWCC.
KU didn't lose another game, finishing 37-3.
…Given the similarities between the 2007-08 season and this season, it's no surprise Witherspoon chose Kansas to win the national championship. Of course, he probably would've picked the Jayhawks to win it all even had they come in still in a funk.
"I don't think I've picked anybody but Kansas since 1995," Witherspoon said.
List of schools whose men's and women's bkb teams reached the NCAA Sweet 16 last two years is very short: KANSAS.
Your Kansas Jayhawks are heading to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row! Don’t miss your chance to follow Kansas Women’s Basketball as they head to Norfolk, Virginia to play #1 seed, Notre Dame Sunday, March 31st @ 11:00am CST.
In the Lawrence area?
Come to the South side of Allen Fieldhouse for a team send-off Friday, March 29th at 11:45am CST as the Jayhawks load the bus and head to the Sweet 16.
In the Norfolk area?
Join Kansas Athletics along with the KU Alumni Association for a team send-off on Sunday, March 31st at 9:45am EST at the Hilton Norfolk Airport (1500 N. Military Highway).
Click here for Ticket Info
Fox4KC: Former Raytown hoop star Terry Nooner assisting Jayhawk women
VOTE for Kansas players, team, and moment in NCAA 75th Anniversary of March Madness (Vote for Wilt, Clyde, Danny, 51-52 Kansas, Mario's Miracle)
It's no exaggeration to say that everything comes to a standstill in Lawrence, Kansas when its beloved Jayhawks play basketball.
Case in point: The visitation for 76-year-old Don Shoulberg, who died on Tuesday, will end when KU's Sweet 16 matchup against Michigan tips off at 6:30 local time.
It says so right there in his obituary.
Whether or not this accommodation was made for conflicted visitors, a basketball-mad family or so that Shoulberg's spirit could pay its undivided attention to Bill Self and Co. remains unclear.
But Shoulberg, a marriage and family therapist who once taught at the school, was said to be a big fan of the Jayhawks. One of the visitors to his guestbook also said that his late friend would definitely be watching as top-seeded Kansas pursues its first national title since 2008:
"Most of our interaction occurred on the office elevator and our conversations almost always focused on KU basketball. I understand why the visitation will end before our tip off against Michigan. Don's steading hand will be a significant factor in our attempt to knock off Michigan in continuing our quest."
For those non-basketball fans worried that this man might not get the full sendoff his deserves, worry not. Shoulberg's memorial services will still be held without interruption on Saturday morning.
One might safely assume, however, that a hearty round of "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk" might go down at some point.
Big 12/College News
SI Luke Winn Power Rankings (pre Thursday's games) Oops, about that #2 & #7 Luke.
The last (and only) point guard to lead the University of Michigan to a national championship sits behind the high fences and razor wire of the federal correctional institution here, a joyless expanse of turf carved out of the woods in the rural flatlands of central Louisiana.
Rumeal Robinson will spend this weekend, like every weekend these days, in the humble Rapides 1 housing unit, watching college hoops on TV.
Some 360 miles northwest of here, a little more than five hours by car if you avoid the speed traps outside Glenmora, the current Michigan point guard, who like his predecessor is a bit over 6 feet, tough and talented, has gotten the Wolverines to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time in nearly two decades, eyes on potential glory, mindful of past ones.
Wichita State didn't have to play angry to beat La Salle — the Shockers instead went with bigger, stronger and more physical en route to an easy 72-58 victory in a NCAA regional semifinal on Thursday night.
And now ninth-seeded Wichita State will meet No. 2 seed Ohio State on Saturday at the Staples Center for a trip to the Final Four (7:05 pm., ET, CBS)..
"It's a grind, just got to stay focused – 40 minutes away," said Wichita State guard Malcolm Armstead, who repeatedly got into the lane and led all scorers with 18 points, along with six rebounds and four assists.
Coming into the tournament feeling overlooked, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall had picked up a slogan – "play angry" – from former Shocker and NBA player Antoine Carr's pep talk to the team during a February slump.
The Ohio State Buckeyes dressed in the Los Angeles Lakers' locker room Thursday night, and somehow it was LaQuinton Ross, a sophomore sub, who drew Kobe Bryant's locker.
Bryant, who has ended countless Lakers' victories with dramatic shots, couldn't have played the hero any better than Ross..
With the scored suddenly tied 70-70 in a game that Arizona controlled in the first half and Ohio State controlled in the second half, Buckeyes point guard Aaron Craft milked the clock, dribbling as the seconds wound down toward zero.
Then Craft, who hit a last-second three-pointer in Ohio State's last victory, went around a screen by Ross and, when Arizona failed to switch onto Ross, Craft delivered a bounce pass.
Ross, from the top of the key, several feet beyond the three-point arc, calmly drained a jumper with two seconds left. A desperation play from Arizona failed and Ohio State had advanced 73-70.
Long known for his 2-3 zone defense, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim says that a few years ago he decided to stop having his team play man-to-man, even occasionally. The practice time, he figured, could be put to better use.
Hard to argue, given Orange's results over the past two seasons – and especially after the way it confounded and discombobulated top-seeded Indiana during an NCAA East Region semifinal Thursday night at Verizon Center.
The 61-50 final margin wasn't indicative of the degree to which Indiana struggled en route to season worsts in scoring, field goal percentage and scoring-deficit faced. It also tied season worsts for turnovers, opponents' steals and blocked shots.
Syracuse (29-9) easily advanced to the round of eight for a second consecutive season.
…Hoosiers coach Tom Crean talked about how he had tried to have his team simulate working against a zone and how they seemed to understand the tactics required to attack it. "But," he conceded, "you have to face facts. We haven't seen a zone like that."
For as consistently as the NCAA tournament delivers underdogs and story lines, national champions in the modern era have been shaped by a theory that works almost entirely in contrast: To win it all, a college basketball team has to have at least three future NBA players.
But No. 1-ranked Louisville enters the Midwest Regional semifinals Friday as a potential antidote to that premise, which has been overwhelmingly accurate over the past 20 years. Though the Cardinals are favored both by seeding and Las Vegas odds to cut down the nets in Atlanta on April 8, Rick Pitino has gotten here by building a roster deep with good players, practically none of whom would be described as sure-fire NBA prospects. Just one Louisville player — junior center Gorgui Dieng — would likely be picked in the first round of this year's draft.
"Pitino has squeezed the hell out of those guys," said one NBA player personnel director, who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because league rules prohibit discussing underclassmen. "I don't see any of them being consistently in a (NBA) rotation. I'm not even sold on Dieng."
Oregon's Arsalan Kazemi has been a key player in the Ducks' run to the Sweet 16, but while at Rice from 2009-12 he alleged that Owls athletic director Rick Greenspan repeatedly made insulting and discriminating remarks to him, two fellow Middle Eastern players and an assistant coach, and that led to his request for a hardship waiver from the NCAA to be eligible to play this season.
According to a document obtained by SI.com, Kazemi, the first Iranian-born player in NCAA Division I men's college basketball, alleged in his hardship waiver that Greenspan made derogatory comments referencing Al-Qaeda and the Axis of Evil when talking about Kazemi and two of his teammates.
The NCAA only grants hardship waivers under special circumstances, but in this case it gave waivers to Kazemi and his teammate, center Omar Oraby, an Egyptian who transferred to USC in September.
The 6-foot-7, 226-pound Kazemi has been instrumental for Oregon (28-8) this season, averaging 9.3 points and a team-best 9.9 rebounds per game. The 12th-seeded Ducks face No. 1 seed Louisville in a Midwest regional semifinal in Indianapolis on Friday night.
On Thursday, Kazemi, who is Muslim, declined to answer questions about the allegations he made against Greenspan in his hardship waiver request. "I won't talk about that," Kazemi said.
Hal Wissel, who taught the hook shot for decades as a college coach and an N.B.A. assistant before opening a basketball school with his sons Scott and Paul in Suffield, Conn., places blame on college coaches who spend too much time recruiting and not enough time instructing.
“The game is overcoached and undertaught,” Wissel said. “That’s the single best answer. If you go to the N.B.A. predraft camp in Chicago, very few of the players have any post-up ability. I watch the drills. They’ll put the ball on the floor, they will travel, and no one is correcting them.”
Wojciechowski says the tendency to shy away from hook shots starts long before college.
“A lot of kids want to play facing the basket, even tall kids,” he said. “Very few kids grow up dreaming about being back-to-the-basket players.
“A lot of the systems in college now are pick-and-roll systems where guys are catching it in the post on the move, instead of catching it with their back to the basket and having to make a move.”
Stephens, who also played at Michigan State, said he taught the hook as a nod to his former coach Jud Heathcote, who insisted every player, regardless of position, master a hook shot with either hand. So Celtics fans can blame Heathcote for the running hook Magic Johnson flipped over Robert Parish and Kevin McHale to win Game 4 of the 1987 N.B.A. finals for the Lakers.
Stephens said that forwards Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix could shoot a hook, but that they were not keen on it.
“Those guys don’t think that shot is fashionable,” Stephens said. “You equate it with Kareem shooting a roll hook — that’s what we call it — or a sky hook, whatever you want to call it. They think it’s an old-school move, and they’d rather shoot a jump hook or turnaround jump shot.”
Plumlee had no such hesitation when he started working on it several years ago.
“I’m not overpowering,” the 230-pound Plumlee said. “I play against guys who are 250-plus. I can’t just back people all the way under the rim. So I have to have something I can go to and use touch and shoot over people.
“I think really at the end of last year, I felt like it was more of a go-to move for me.”
NY Times: A Dying Art