Sweet 16 Game Preview: Kansas vs. Michigan (7:37 Friday)

by Cakes Fisher
DC/Maryland Bureau Reporter

Ben McLemore is the Jayhawks leading scorer/
One of the few parts of the bracket free of upset finds the Wolverines facing off against the Jayhawks in the setting of next year’s Final Four, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Kansas has defeated both Western Kentucky and North Carolina on their way to Dallas. The Jayhawks played both of their games at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO, enjoying overwhelming home court fan support for 80 minutes of play. Meanwhile, In Auburn Hills, MI the Wolverines enjoyed their own style of home-cooking taking care of South Dakota State and Virginia Commonwealth with blowouts.  

Michigan’s key to winning this match up to face either the tournament darlings FGCU or the Sunshine State favorite Gators in the elite eight will be to stop the inside domination of Kansas Center 7 foot senior Jeff Withey. Number five will be countered by number 4, 6 foot ten inch (in heels) Freshman Mitch McGary, who provided the necessary toughness in Michigan’s first two games,  but his assignment at tip off will be significantly more difficult to neutralize on Friday. Look for the battle of the big men in the paint to be the predictor of Kansas’s success in this one.

Kansas’s road to Sunday play rests in their ability to stop the wily and utterly entertaining Naismith favorite Trey Burker from taking over the pace of the game and running the Jayhawks out of Dallas squawking. Countering Burke will be the job of an inexperienced backcourt led by Freshman standout Ben McLemore. Many non-gamblers will come to the quick conclusion that Burke will exploit the experience of McLemore, but the active Jayhawks defense leads the NCAA’s in keeping opponents Filed Goal percentage miniscule, making buckets from the outside difficult to come by. Burke will need to penetrate and make the Jayhawks overplay him in the paint in order to ignite the potent Michigan perimeter threat. Driving and dishing will only work if Burke can establish his electric skills aimed at the basket.

History favors the Wolverines in this contest. Kansas is 3-4 against the four seed, and Michigan leads the head-to-head series 5 wins to 2 defeats, but anyone with a very rudimentary knowledge of statistics knows that seven games does not make the losing records significant to the outcome of this game. I predict Michigan will win this game not as a consequence of history, but as a direct result of the improved intensity this athletic team has demonstrated thus far in the tournament. Michigan is playing like the number one team many predicted it to be in November. Kansas has been playing well, but not with the killer instinct needed to prevail in the Sweet Sixteen. My Michigan pal will be scrambling for Sunday seats after watching Michigan upset Kansas by 4 on Friday night in front of a balanced record crowd in Dallas.