After winning the Big 12 conference tournament, No. 1 seed Kansas will start its road to a national championship with a battle against No. 16 seed Western Kentucky.
They also reached the Big Dance last season and won their opening-round game before falling to Kentucky in the round of 64. In all likelihood, they will suffer a similar fate this season at the hands of Kansas.
Still, the Jayhawks have some questionable defeats this season, including a loss against TCU. Anything can happen in March Madness, so make sure not to miss a second of the action in this game.
Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo.
How far does Kansas go in the NCAA tournament?
When: Friday, March 22, at 9:50 p.m. ET
Live Stream: March Madness on Demand
Betting Line: Kansas -20 (via Vegas Insider)
What's At Stake?
If Western Kentucky were to pull the upset, it would be the first time a No. 16 seed has ever beaten a top seed in NCAA tournament history. It would instantly become one of the biggest upsets in sports history as a result.
Of course, the more likely scenario is that Kansas moves on to face the winner of North Carolina and Villanova. Both of these teams are capable of beating good teams, so the Jayhawks will want to make sure they properly prepare for the next game.
Injuries (via USA Today)
No injuries to report.
F Nigel Snipes (Knee) Out
What They're Saying
Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports profiled Kansas heading into the tournament:
When the Jayhawks' defense is dictating the game and enabling them to get easy transition opportunities, they are very difficult to beat. However, Self is going to need to get consistent point guard play in order to win six games. Johnson and Tharpe are talented enough to get the job done, but they will need to be solid and not make too many mistakes. That will ultimately decide the Jayhawks' fate.
With Jeff Withey defending the interior, the defense will be solid throughout the tournament. However, Borzello is absolutely correct that inconsistent point guard play between Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe has been a problem.
Kansas has an incredibly tough bracket after the first round, and it may not be able to survive many mistakes against these good teams.
Kansas Player to Watch: Ben McLemore
Although he is a freshman surrounded by a bunch of seniors, Ben McLemore is the most talented player in this game.
The guard is a pure scorer that is capable of some huge games. He can shoot it (43.7 percent from three) or get into the lane and finish at the rim as well as anyone in the country. These skills are what make him potentially the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.
McLemore only had 15 points combined in the final two games of the Big 12 tournament, but he will need to score a lot more for Kansas to go to the Final Four and beyond.
Western Kentucky Player to Watch: T.J. Price
If the Hilltoppers have any chance at winning this game, they will need a huge effort from sophomore T.J. Price.
The guard averages 15.3 points per game this season and scored 21 against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament last season. However, Western Kentucky will likely need at least 30 or more from him to keep up on the scoreboard.
Still, the 6'4" star is the team's best outside shooter and can get himself to the free-throw line to get extra points. If Price stays aggressive, he could have a big game.
Key Matchup: Jeff Withey vs. George Fant
Western Kentucky is not blessed with a lot of size. While Aleksejs Rostov is 6'10", he only plays an average of 13.8 minutes per game.
Instead, most of the frontcourt action goes through sophomore forward George Fant. At only 6'6", he is in for a lot of trouble against the 7'0" Jeff Withey.
The Kansas senior is one of the best defensive big men in the nation. His average of 3.79 blocks per game ranks third in the country, and yet he usually avoids foul trouble.
However, Withey is successful at both ends of the court. He is second on the team with an average of 13.6 points per game and even had a triple-double against San Jose State earlier in the season.
Fant averages a solid 12.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, but he is in trouble in this one.
Prediction: Kansas 79, Western Kentucky 51
Western Kentucky should be proud of reaching the NCAA tournament after finishing only 10-10 in the Sun Belt conference. Unfortunately, the dream will end in a hurry.
Kansas is simply too big inside and too good defensively for this to ever really be a competitive game. The frontcourt combo of Withey and Kevin Young should combine for at least 30 points, and the backcourt will drain threes all game.
Look for younger players Naadir Tharpe, Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor to get some extra playing time as coach Bill Self tries to better prepare them for the next few rounds.
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