Scouting Report: Kansas again

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Before the start of the season most observers expected Arizona and Kansas to meet in the NCAA Tournament, but as the top-two ranked teams in preseason polls, they thought it would happen in New Orleans. Instead of playing in the Big Easy the two squads meet for the shot to advance to the Final Four. Kansas wants revenge after Arizona embarrassed them 91-74 on their home floor in January.

No. 1 Seed Arizona (28-3) vs. No. 2 Seed Kansas (28-7)
2003 NCAA West Regional Final
Date: Thursday, March 29, 2003
Time: 4:05 p.m. PST
Location: Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim (17,600),Anaheim, Calif.
Radio: Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
TV: CBS (Jim Nantz/Billy Packer)

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LAST TIME OUT: Arizona went on a 22-3 first half run and beat Notre Dame 88-71. Kansas outlasted Duke 69-65.

LAST MEETING: Arizona erased a 22-point first half deficit and beat Kansas 91-74 at Phog Allen Fieldhouse earlier this season.

BACKCOURT: The Jayhawks employ a three-guard offense with lots of ball movement on the perimeter. Aaron Miles runs the offense from the point and is a pass-first player. He is not a great offensive player, but more than makes up for it with his decision making and defense. He is tall and rangy and makes things difficult for smaller guards.

Kirk Hinrich is a great shooter when he is on, but with an injured right wrist (his shooting hand) he has struggled in their last game against Duke, making just 1-9 shots. He struggled in the first meeting with Arizona and would love to redeem himself this time out. Hinrich is a very good passer as well and gives the Jayhawks a second point guard on the floor. He takes care of the ball and gets it to the open man, but his real strength is his offense. If he can find his stroke he's deadly from the outside. He gets good looks by working very well coming off of screens, which happens to be a difficulty for Wildcat defenders.

Keith Langford had an amazing first half against Arizona but was silenced in the second half. Langford is a great scorer, able to hit from the perimeter, but can also put it on the floor and attack the hoop. In addition to good offensive skills, Langford also hits the boards and works hard on the defensive end.

Michael Lee comes off the bench to spell all three perimeter players.

The Jayhawks hit just one three-pointer against Duke and will need to be shooting well against Arizona. Expect the Cats to go to the 1-3-1 zone and if the guards can't shoot well it could be a long night.

The Wildcat guards had a field day against the Jayhawks in the first meeting. Both Salim Stoudamire and Jason Gardner had phenomenal outings in Lawrence. The Wildcat duo is playing well, especially Gardner who led the Cats in the win over Notre Dame. The Wildcat guards will have the challenge of stopping the Jayhawks on the outside, but they are an equally difficult problem for Kansas' guards.

Hassan Adams provided a spark against the Irish and could see time against the Jayhawks. He played well on the defensive end and his ability to get to the hoop could be vital in what should be a close game.

FRONTCOURT: Nick Collison is one of the best players in the nation and played like it against Duke. He scored 11 straight points for Kansas down the stretch and was the main reason they beat the Blue Devils. Collison was great against the Cats in the first half but could not get good looks in the key second half.

The senior is great on the blocks but is also skilled enough to shoot from the perimeter. Collison killed the Cats by slashing to the basket in the first half, but the zone kept him from getting good looks.

With Wayne Simien on the sidelines the Jayhawks rely heavily on Jeff Graves. Graves gives Kansas another big body and is the type of player Arizona has had trouble with all year.

The biggest problem for Kansas is the lack of depth on the inside. Moulaye Niang spells Graves and Collison, but can't be counted on for long stretches. If either Kansas big man gets into foul trouble it could be difficult for the Jayhawks.

Expect Arizona to attack the post in an effort to pick up early fouls on the big two. Channing Frye is playing with a lot of confidence, although he needs to play a complete game. He started 5-5 against Notre Dame, but finished just 2-7. His hook shot has been lethal and he has adapted to playing with a lot of contact. He'd rather face a finesse team, but no longer disappears when bodies start banging.

Rick Anderson has been an overlooked player for Arizona all year and he seems to thrive in the role. Anderson can score inside and out and has developed into the Cats' best rebounder. Anderson has a knack for finding the ball, especially in crunch time.

Luke Walton starts at the three, but will see plenty of time in the post. He provides a difficult match-up for the Kansas small forwards as he is very adept at getting down low and scoring on the blocks. Walton passes so well from the top that you can't relax on defense when he has the ball.

Andre Iguodala is the team's defensive stopper and will spell Walton. His presence means that the Cats can slide Walton to the post or give him a rest. Iguodala is long and lean and is devastating in the passing lanes. He is not as good on offense as he is on defense, but has made a number of big shots in the Tournament.

OUTLOOK: Kansas must hit outside shots to free up Collison and Graves on the inside. The Cats don't mind one player having a big game, but can't afford to have two or more Jayhawks get hot. Both teams have confidence that they can play well against the other, Kansas from the first half, Arizona in the second. Depth could be a concern for Kansas, especially if anyone gets into foul trouble. Both teams score a lot, although Arizona wants to run more than Kansas. This game should be a good one.

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