March 23, 2012
St. Louis, Mo. -
The Wolfpack might be facing a pro-Kansas crowd in St. Louis Friday night, but the bigger worry for the Wolfpack is the amount of talent the Jayhawks bring into the Sweet 16 match-up.
NC State (24-12) and Kansas (29-6) will tip off approximately 10:20 p.m. (eastern) on TBS, with Marv Albert, Steve Kerr and Craig Sager on the call.
Kansas is no stranger to advancing this far in the NCAA Tournament, as the Jayhawks are in their 28th Sweet 16, and for the sixth time in the nine seasons under head coach Bill Self. The Jayhawks have won 11 of their last 12 games, and won their eighth straight Big 12 regular season championship this season.
"They get up and down the floor extremely well, maybe as good as anybody we've played all year," said NC State head coach Mark Gottfried. "(Thomas) Robinson inside is a monster. He's tough. He's strong. He can score, and they go to him a lot.
"What impresses me is their two guards, they can get baskets. They get them at key times and they both can take the ball of the dribble and score."
NC State's front court will have its hands full, as 6-10, 237-pound Thomas Robinson waits in the post. A national player of the year candidate and consensus All-America First Team selection, Robison currently ranks second in the nation in rebounding (11.8) and also leads Kansas in scoring (17.7).
"That's going to be a great matchup; his power and my quickness," said forward C.J. Leslie. "Our team's going to have to know where he is all the time. My main goal will be to take him a couple of feet out away from the basket, make a move and go from there."
"I think Thomas Robinson is their key guy," said guard Lorenzo Brown. "Their guards are pretty good, but I think keeping Thomas out of the game would be the key to winning."
Robinson is joined in the front court by 7-0 center, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jeff Withey, who averages 9.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocked shots for the season, ranking seventh nationally in blocks.
"When you look at Withey and you look at our league and take a guy like John Henson at North Carolina, and Withey has more blocked shots than Henson," said Gottfried. "That jumps out at our guys real quick because they have great respect for North Carolina's front line.
"Withey has gotten a lot better. You look maybe a year ago and look at him now, and he's had great improvement. It's a big front line there and it's going to be a great challenge for our interior guys."
The Pack has held its own this year in the post, even though the Pack plays only three 'bigs' - two are 6'8" and one is 6'9". NC State currently ranks second in the ACC in rebounding (37.3), rebounding margin (+4.5) and offensive rebounds (12.1).
NC State is 24-11-1 this season in the rebounding battle, and has had three players recorded double digits 27 times this year. In the Pack's 24 wins this season NC State has posted a +6.9 rebounding edge, but in the 12 losses the Pack has been in the negative (-0.3).
Over the last five games, Leslie has averaged 16.2 points, Richard Howell 12.2 points and DeShawn Painter 6.2 points off the bench.
The Jayhawks lead the Big 12 in rebound margin (+5.7), rebounding (37.2), field goal percentage defense (38.1) and blocked shots (5.6).
The strength of the Jayhawks might be in the front court, but their guards are as dynamic as any duo in the nation. Senior Tyshawn Taylor (16.9) and junior Elijah Johnson (10.0) also score in double figures.
"I guess me and Tyshawn's role are controlling the teams and we both are quick on our feet and we're both going to score," said Brown. "It's going to be a great game."
Kansas advanced to the Sweet 16 after a tough 63-60 win over Purdue last weekend. The Jayhawks were down by as many as 10 points in the second half, but pulled out the win to advance.
"What I like when I watch their team is they just keep finding ways to win," said Gottfried. "You watch some games and there's that eight-minute mark in the second half and it starts to look like it's teetering one way or another and here they come, bang, bang, bang. All of a sudden they made some plays. I think that's a trademark of Bill's (Self) teams.
"A lot of good players on both sides in this game. We feel like we have got some guys that can step up and make some plays. I'm sure they feel the same way."