The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee does its best to try placing teams as close as they can to their campuses, both to make it easier on the teams and on their fans. With the games slated to be played in Kansas City, they did a bang-up job, ensuring Kansas and Kansas State get to play within a few hours of home.
The Jayhawks and the Wildcats are the two top squads among the eight teams that will play at the Sprint Center Thursday and Friday, and in addition to their seeding advantage, they'll have a hearty helping of fans as well. That won't guarantee each a win -- and definitely not a Sweet 16 berth -- but it surely won't hurt. Here's a look at the four second round games in Kansas City, all times local:
Thursday, 6:20 p.m., No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Villanova
The Tar Heels don't have anything close to the team that made the Elite Eight last year: Tyler Zeller is gone, Kendall Marshall is gone, Harrison Barnes is gone. But they still managed a 12-6 record in the ACC, and only lost two games to teams that didn't make the NCAA Tournament, Virginia and Texas. With James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston each averaging at least 14 points a game, they managed the No. 27 offense in the nation, thanks to strong shooting from deep and decent ball security. Meanwhile, Nova wasn't a consistently great team, but they did prove themselves as giant-killers: they beat Louisville, Georgetown, and Syracuse when they were ranked in the top five, and also knocked off Marquette. JayVaughn Pinkston is the team's top scorer due to an uncanny ability to get to the line, and Mouphtarou Yarou is the senior providing interior defense and boards.
Thursday, 8:50 p.m.: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Western Kentucky
This would be bad enough for Western Kentucky if KC wasn't likely to turn into Lawrence East for the next few days. Good luck, Hilltoppers!
Friday, 11:40 a.m., No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Ole Miss
It's an interesting matchup between two completely opposite life choices. Wisconsin is a slow, methodical killer, with airtight defense and Bo Ryan's patented swing offense, which distributes the ball pretty evenly to every player on the team. They live and run on ugly.
On the other hand, Ole Miss really has only one thing going for it: Marshall Henderson squaring up from pretty much anywhere, and hitting it a large amount of the time. And then, Marshall Henderson being Marshall Henderson, which is what we all want to see.
Friday, 2:10 p.m. No. 4 Kansas State vs. No. 13 La Salle/Boise State
Bruce Weber has done an amazing job with the Wildcats in his first year on the job, but three losses to Kansas -- two in the regular season, allowing the Jayhawks to get the No. 1 seed in the Big 12 tournament, then a third in the championship game -- sort of ruins that vibe. The Wildcats, led by Rodney McGruder, will be watching intently Wednesday night as La Salle and Boise State square off in the First Four, with both teams bringing strong backcourts to the table.
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