A look at Sunday’s NCAA Elite Eight games
The final two teams will make their way into the Final Four on Sunday. Here’s a look at the last two regional finals.
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Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Announcers: Jim Nantz play-by-play, Clark Kellogg analyst
|No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 3 Baylor|
Time: 2:20 p.m.
The spread: Kentucky by 7.5
Records: Baylor 30-7, Kentucky 35-2
How they got here: Baylor beat No. 14 South Dakota State 68-60, beat No. 11 Colorado 80-63, beat No. 10 Xavier 75-70. Kentucky beat No. 16 Western Kentucky 81-66, beat No. 8 Iowa State 87-71, beat No. 4 Indiana 102-90
Tourney history: Kentucky is looking for its 15th Final Four appearance and its second in a row; UK also has been a regional runner-up 19 times. Baylor is looking for its third Final Four appearance but its first since 1950. The Bears also have been a regional runner-up twice, most recently in 2010.
Key stat: The rebound battle is going to be big. Kentucky outrebounds foes by almost eight per game; Baylor has a plus-5.4 advantage.
The buzz: This is the first single-digit seed of the tournament for Baylor. On paper, these teams basically are evenly matched. UK has six players averaging in double figures and no one averaging more than 14.1 per game. Baylor has five guys in double figures, with no one averaging more than 13.6. Kentucky shoots 48.7 percent from the field and holds foes to 37.5 percent. Baylor shoots 47.0 percent and holds opponents to 41.5 percent. Baylor shoots 38.5 percent from beyond the arc, Kentucky 37.7 percent. But what is it they say about stats? You can make them say anything you want. Intensity cannot be measured and that is where these teams differ greatly. UK brings it for 40 minutes a game. Baylor? Sometimes the Bears don’t bring it all, especially their frontcourt players. If Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy play to their potential, this will be a memorable game. If that trio messes around, as they seemingly usually do, UK will cruise into the Final Four by a double-digit margin. Baylor PG Pierre Jackson is quicker than UK counterpart Marquis Teague and could pose some problems. Jackson and backcourt mate Brady Heslip, both of whom shoot at least 42.0 percent from beyond the arc, could help Baylor’s cause by knocking down some early 3-pointers.
Where: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis
Announcers: Marv Albert play-by-play, Steve Kerr analyst
|No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kansas|
Time: 5:05 p.m.
The spread: Kansas by 2.5
Records: Kansas 30-6, North Carolina 32-5
How they got here: Kansas beat No. 15 Detroit 65-50, beat No. 10 Purdue 63-60, beat No. 11 N.C. State 60-57. North Carolina beat No. 16 Vermont 77-58, beat No. 8 Creighton 87-73, beat No. 13 Ohio 73-65 (OT)
Tourney history: North Carolina is looking for its 19th Final Four appearance; the Tar Heels currently are tied with UCLA for the most. Kansas is looking for its 14th. UNC’s most recent Final Four appearance was in 2009, when it won the national title. Kansas’ was in ’08, when it won the championship.
Key stat: This is another game where you will want to watch the work on the boards. North Carolina leads the nation in rebounds at 45.3 per game, and the Heels outrebound their opponents by 10.9 per game. Kansas averages 37.6 rebounds per game and has a plus-5.7 advantage. If UNC is without PG Kendall Marshall, any second-chance points the Heels can muster will be huge.
The buzz: This is the first single-digit seed of the tourney for Kansas. UNC struggled mightily without Marshall against Ohio, turning it over a season-high 24 times and looking lost offensively at times. Marshall’s availability for Sunday likely won’t be determined until game time, and it’s hard to see UNC winning without him. Still, UNC has a big-time frontcourt, and Harrison Barnes (who played poorly against Ohio), John Henson and Tyler Zeller will pose matchup problems for Kansas. KU C Jeff Withey played well against North Carolina State, and if he plays well again, that would be a huge boost for the Jayhawks. UNC’s 3-point shooting is oft-criticized, but the Heels’ 34.1 percent marksmanship from beyond the arc isn’t that much worse than Kansas’ 34.8 percent. KU’s offense has struggled in the tourney, but the defensive effort has been there for the most part. If the Jayhawks can get that type of effort against a Marshall-less UNC, KU will advance. If Marshall plays, look for KU to be aggressive and, yes, physical, against him. In that scenario, look for KU to entice Marshall to shoot, at least early on, in an effort to see what kind of offensive threat he poses. Regardless, each of UNC’s big three up front must be productive if the Heels are to win.
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