But to advance to Sunday's game, No. 3-seeded KU (27-7, 14-2 Big) must knock off No. 2 Michigan State (28-6, 15-3 Big Ten) in the Sweet 16 Friday at approximately 8:45 p.m. (CST) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The game features a rematch between the two teams' battle last Jan. 10
in East Lansing, where the Spartans dominated the Jayhawks with a 75-62
Two and a half months later, KU is much improved team heading into this
Sweet 16 battle. The young Jayhawks were still trying to find their way
that January afternoon at the Breslin Center, and junior forward Mario Little (fouled out with no points in seven minutes) was playing in just
the third game of his college career after being sidelined with
The Spartans led 37-18 at halftime and whipped KU on the boards, 42-31.
Junior guard Sherron Collins led Kansas with 25 points, while sophomore
guard Kalin Lucas paced MSU with 21 points. The Jayhawks shot just 40
percent from the field, although they held the Spartans to 39.3 percent
shooting. MSU went 26 of 35 from the free-throw line, compared to KU's
17 of 28.
"I think we are older and I think not playing in the Breslin Center
will be somewhat beneficial," KU coach Bill Self said. "We stunk
offensively, we were a really bad offensive team. They just dominated
us in the first half; we played hard in the second half but didn't have
enough gas in the tank.
"I believe we are a little bit tougher and our supporting cast has been
more consistent, although it didn't really show in Minneapolis (NCAA
first two rounds last week). Overall I feel like we are a better team."
Both squads should be extremely well-prepared for this next meeting.
"Tom Izzo (MSU head coach) historically has done as good of a job with
the scouting report as any coach I've ever coached against," Self said.
"They were really prepared for us the first time and took away a lot of
our strengths and I'm sure they will do a good job of trying to do that
again. We have to figure out a way to counter that and we need to do a
much better job of guarding them."
Like Kansas, Michigan State is an improved team since the January
matchup. The Spartans have won eight of their last nine games and beat
Robert Morris (77-62) and USC (74-69) in Minneapolis to advance to the
The Spartans, who won their 11th Big Ten regular-season championship,
average 72.1 points while allowing 63.1 ppg. They are a deep, balanced,
and defensive minded team which lead the nation in rebound margin at
+10.1 (39.1 to 29.0).
"They are relentless on the glass," Self said. "We're plus
seven for the year, something like that. But with them, you can't let
balls come to you, you have to go attack the ball. You got to hit and
go get as opposed to hit and wait. They're very, very good in not
allowing themselves to be blocked off, keeping balls alive."
Lucas, the Big Ten Player of the Year, leads Michigan State in scoring
(14.6 ppg) and assists (4.5 apg), and ranks second on the team with 34
steals. Junior forward Raymar Morgan is the other double-digit scorer
at 10.7 points per game while ranking second with 5.5 rebounds. Senior
center Goran Sutton is next in scoring (9.8 ppg, team-high 8.3 rpg),
followed by sophomore guard Chris Allen (9.0 ppg, team-high 51 threes),
sophomore guard Durrell Summers (8.3 ppg), freshman forward Delvon Roe
(6.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg, team-best 26 blocks), and senior guard Travis Walton
(5.3 ppg, 3.2 apg).
Senior forward Marquise Gray (3.4 ppg, 3.1 rpg), freshman guard Korie Lucious (3.0 ppg) and freshman forward Draymond Green (2.8 ppg) also
contribute to the attack.
Self has great respect for the Spartans, who've featured eight
different players in double figures in one of their NCAA tournament
games. Six players are averaging at least 9.0 ppg through the first two
games. Morgan and Green led MSU against Robert Morris with 16 points
each, while Summers paced the Spartans with 11 points versus USC.
And then there's Lucas, one of the premier guards in the land. He's
tied for team lead with Green for the tournament with an 11.5 point
"I would say, next to (Ben) Woodside (North Dakota State guard who lit
up KU with 37 points in the opening round of the tourney), that we
haven't had a guy outplay us more than Kalin Lucas did in the Breslin
Center," Self said. "He totally dominated the game. From our
perspective when the game was in the balance he just took the game
over. I know positively that he has all of our guys' respect."
Of course, Izzo's Spartans have to respect the Jayhawks and their go-to
players Collins and Cole Aldrich. Collins is averaging 28.5 points in
the tournament, while Aldrich is coming off the first official
triple-double in school history in KU's 60-43 victory over Dayton on
While Self needs more contributions from players like freshmen Tyshawn Taylor and the Morris Twins (Marcus and Markieff), the KU coach fully
expects Aldrich and Collins to bring their ‘A' games Friday night.
"I think the NCAA tournament is the time for the best players to
shine," Self said. "People talk about them all year long, and now
everybody gets to see them on the brightest stage."
And as Self added, "the best way to really show what you're capable of
is for your team to advance."
That's what KU will attempt to do against Michigan State. The Jayhawks
are ready for prime time and show the nation how much they've grown
since the last game versus the Spartans.
"I think we're more mature as a team," Taylor said. "When we played
Michigan State earlier this year, it was our second away game for the
season. I think we were like (14 games) in, still young, still going
through some growing pains like a young team does.
"I feel like we're March mature. (We've) been through a bunch of
battles since then. I feel we're going to handle the situation a little
bit better than last time. Their pressure (rattled) us. I think we're
While Aldrich said making the Sweet 16 was "a dream come true," he and
his teammates certainly aren't ready to rest after reaching
"I am still not satisfied," Collins said. "I think that we can do more."
Jayhawks Not Satisfied
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