As the Kansas Jayhawks look to defend their title run of last year, they will have a tough task ahead of them. Friday night they will face the Michigan State Spartans for the second time this season.
The Spartans won the earlier matchup in the regular season 75-62, but they're not playing the same Jayhawks team they did nearly three months ago.
This is a new experienced Kansas team even though the underclassmen haven't played to their standard. Don't expect Sherron Collins to turn the ball over eight times in this game like he did in the previous matchup. As a matter of fact, Collins has only turned it over twice the whole tournament.
There are going to be many keys to Kansas winning it all again this year. Here are a few things the Jayhawks will need to do.
Improve three-point shooting
The Jayhawks have been decent, but not great from three-point land hitting only 25.5 percent from outside. There is no question that number will have to improve to make a serious tournament run.
Get better play out of freshman
All the freshman on this Kansas squad have really stepped up at some point in this season, but there is no question that not one has stepped up in this tournament so far. In fact, the four big freshman (Morningstar, Taylor, and the Morris twins) have a combined 32 points in the tournament.
Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich are the only two players on the team with significant tournament experience and they have definitely played like it so far. Sherron Collins is taking over games and Aldrich is dominating down low. Collins already has 57 points in the tournament and Aldrich recorded only the eighth triple-double in NCAA tournament history.
Sure some might think the x-factor will be if Collins can take over the game or if Aldrich can dominate in the paint. Expect Collins to score 25 and hand out about seven assists against Michigan State and Aldrich to have another 15-15 game. (15 points, 15 rebounds). The real x-factor is Brady Morningstar.
Morningstar hasn't played well in the tournament, at all! He has only eight points on 3-for-9 shooting and has three turnovers. Now, Brady is a very good three-point shooter, and he will have to heat up against Michigan State and any team they play in the Elite Eight.
Expect Morningstar and the other freshman to step up big against Michigan State.
The Jayhawks haven't had high expectations this year. They weren't supposed to win the Big 12 regular season title, and they weren't supposed to be in the Sweet 16.
That just goes to show how excellent of a job Bill Self has done with young, inexperienced Jayhawk team. The road doesn't end for the Jayhawks this Friday. My
Kansas 68 Michigan State 62