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We’re down to just eight teams that are left standing on the road to the Final Four, and on Sunday afternoon, we are set to make our Elite 8 picks in the clash between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Kansas Jayhawks.
Elite 8 Matchup: #2 Kansas Jayhawks vs. #1 North Carolina Tar Heels
Date: Sunday, March 25th, 5:00 ET
Location: Scottrade Arena, St. Louis, MO
Elite 8 Odds: Kansas -2
NCAA Tournament TV Schedule: CBS
Head Coach Roy Williams has to be licking his chops over this one. He is going to lead his Tar Heels into battle against the team that he once called his home. The problem is that he really might not have a full team to work with. His bench was forced to be awfully short against the Ohio Bobcats on Friday night. There were just eight different players that took the court, and Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Reggie Bullock, and Harrison Barnes all played at least 38 of the 45 minutes (including overtime).
The Heels still have to be scratching their head as to how they were almost beaten by the MAC champs on Friday. They shot the ball poorly at just 40.0 percent, and they only knocked down 14-of-24 free throws. A whopping 24 turnovers were just way too many, and that was the big time problem with Kendall Marshall still on the sidelines with a broken wrist. If he can’t get in there, don’t be shocked if there are a ton of turnovers once again. It almost seems like it is a pre-requisite for UNC to win the rebounding edge just like it did against Ohio. Goodness knows that without that absolutely outrageous 56-26 advantage on the glass, the Tar Heels would probably be watching the Elite 8 from their couch back on Tobacco Road.
Kansas isn’t a team that is without its flaws, though. The squad looked iffy at times in the Sweet 16 against the NC State Wolfpack, and the narrow three-point win marked the second game in a row in which the Jayhawks struggled mightily with a double digit seed. Tyshawn Taylor has been a big part of the problem, as he only has a total of 26 points in his three games here in the dance after averaging over 17 points per game in the regular season. He was the worst long range shooter that the team had in that win over the Wolfpack, shooting just 0-of-6 from beyond the arc. Needless to say, that isn’t going to cut it against one of the most talented teams in the entire country.
The big difference in this one is that Kansas is going to have the big men to challenge the Tar Heels, which is something that they haven’t run across at any point in this tournament. That’s not to say that Henson, Zeller, and Barnes can’t dominate this game on the glass, but against Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey, it is going to be a heck of a lot tougher. In the end, as long as the guard play for the Jayhawks turns out to be alright and the guards continue to struggle and turn the ball over for the Tar Heels, this is going to be a very easy selection. Back Kansas even though it almost seems a tad fishy that it is the team that is favored on Sunday.
Elite 8 Free Pick: Kansas -2
Wisconsin vs. Syracuse Projected Final Score: Kansas 79 – North Carolina 70