Kansas, Thomas Robinson, Kendall Marshall and the Sweet 16
The Kansas City Star
ST. LOUIS — Seriously. Is this the Kansas basketball team that will make the Final Four? The one that three months ago had the point guard who couldn’t hold onto the basketball and the power forward who sometimes walked up the court and a bunch of other guys who’d mostly played during blowouts?
What is probably [the best coaching job of Bill Self’s time at Kansas (http://www.kansascity.com/2012/03/06/3474503/the-subtle-evolution-of-bill-self.html#storylink=misearch) continues here, tonight, in a Sweet 16 game against North Carolina State that the Jayhawks are favored by eight or so and given a 79 percent chance of winning by Ken Pomeroy.
For whatever it’s worth, NC State appears to be a good matchup for Kansas: wants to play fast, doesn’t force many turnovers, only one true three-point shooter.
Of course, before the Purdue game, I looked at how much the Boilermakers struggled against teams with skilled big men and figured that was a great sign for Thomas Robinson and the Jayhawks.
Speaking of Robinson, the column this morning is^ a fresh look at how the tragedy that’s come to define him has shaped him into one of college basketball’s rawest forces, even as he won’t talk about it.
^ I hope, anyway.
I do hope you’ll read it. There’s some good stuff in there from people who know Thomas well.
I mentioned this on Twitter this morning, but if you’ve ever watched a team that’s so talented you thought, ‘My gosh, they could win with ME out there…”
Well, North Carolina is essentially testing your theory.
No offense to Stillman White, who seems like a good guy, but this is a 14-year-old with a learner’s permit being given keys to the Ferrari. A year ago, he was averaging three assists per game in high school, “begging” colleges to recruit him according to his high school coach, and when an unexpected opening forced UNC to take a look, figured he’d spend this entire season learning.
He mostly has, averaging 4.3 minutes and 0.7 points per game this season.
Kendall Marshall isn’t the best player UNC has — too many of his teammates are lottery picks — but he is the most irreplaceable.
I thought this even before Marshall’s injury, but this bracket looks promising for Kansas. North Carolina State is better than Purdue, which pushed KU to the brink and — if we’re all being honest — probably should’ve won last weekend in Omaha. But NC State is a much better matchup for KU, too, playing the kind of style that will allow the Jayhawks to play their own kind of style.
NC State’s strength is athleticism, but it’s also true that KU has some pretty decent athletes, too.
And if KU can get by this game, they’ll face either Ohio or, more likely, a ridiculously talented UNC team with no point guard.
If it was just about talent, UNC would beat Ohio by 25 tonight and KU by probably 10 on Sunday.
But basketball is also about toughness, and togetherness, and especially defense so KU should be in decent position to win that one too, if it comes to it. I’m not the only one, either, and wouldn’t that be something?
KU basketball, with its absurd standards, winning a conference title and a Final Four with perhaps the national player of the year…in what people figured to be a rebuilding season.