March Madness

2014 NCAA Tournament Preview: (2) Kansas vs. (15) Eastern Kentucky

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Kansas Jayhawks 24-9, 14-4

Forget that the Jayhawks are making their 43rd NCAA Tournament appearance and that they continued their regular season dominance of the Big 12. The only storyline that matters going into the Big Dance is the status of big man Joel Embiid. With him on the floor at his best, the Jayhawks are a serious national championship contender, but he may not be available until after the first weekend. In his absence, we’ve seen Andrew Wiggins remind everyone why he was so highly touted coming out of high school. He could play himself into the number one spot in the NBA Draft with a strong tournament. As a team, the Jayhawks are young but battle tested as they played the most difficult schedule in the country. Against the RPI top 50 they went 12-7 during the regular season. They average 79 points a game on just under 50 percent shooting from the field, but they are a bit turnover prone, giving it up 13.2 times a game on average. The play of their reserves is going to be key for them if they’re going to go on a deep run, especially with Embiid not 100 percent. Teams without the ability to hurt them from beyond the arc or hang with them on the glass won’t stand a chance against the Jayhawks.

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Eastern Kentucky Colonels 24-9, 11-5

Winning 10 of their last 12 was not enough to help the Colonels win the Ohio Valley regular season championship, but it was enough to get them into the Big Dance for the eighth time in school history and the first time since 2007. The Colonels are led by two very well rounded players in Glenn Cosey and Corey Walden, who combine to average 32.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 3.5 steals. Walden was named the Defensive Player of the Year in the OVC. They nearly upset Virginia Commonwealth on December 5, but missed out on the opportunity for the quality win against a top 25 RPI team. They also fell to Wisconsin; their top wins both came against Belmont. The Colonels score 79 points on average, which ranked 27th in the country, but defensively they really have a hard time getting stops, allowing their opponents to shoot an astonishing 48 percent from the field and 35 percent from deep. Only nine teams had a worse rebounding margin than they did at -6.1, which does not bode well for their hopes of surviving and advancing. Outside of a record-setting three-point shooting performance, it’s hard to see how the Colonels can manage to win their first tournament game ever.