UNC fans are all too familiar with Kansas. But this team is different ...
Sometime on Sunday, the realization will come for most of even the most fervent Tar Heels. Wow, that was a Saturday night to remember … but Monday beckons. As thrilling as the historic, career-ending, signature Final Four victory over Duke was, the only real topping is to take down another nemesis, Kansas, to win the crown.
What of these Jayhawks, you may wonder? Carolina fans know all too well that they do play some pretty good basketball in Kansas. But the rosters have changed. Here’s a quick refresher on what to know about these Jayhawks.
1. Kansas is a very good, but slightly bipolar team
Kansas is 32-6, and won the Big 12 as they have done pretty much every year in memory (they have won the league 18 of the past 21 years). They are, of course, a No. 1 seed, but they were heading into the Tournament as fairly vulnerable because they’ve had some less than stellar moments. They lost to an NIT-bound Dayton team and at a very mediocre TCU team, and got bombed by Kentucky at home by 18 points.
2. You don’t bomb the Jayhawks into submission
One odd trend this season for Kansas is that teams that fare well against them have not done damage from behind the 3-point line. Of Kansas’ 6 losses, no team that beat the Jayhawks made more than 6 3-pointers in the game– and half of Kansas’ losses came against teams that only hit 3 3-point shots.
In 7 games this year, Kansas’ opponents hit 10 or more 3-pointers and Kansas won all 7 games, by an average of 12 points. That includes Saturday’s win over Villanova, which shot 42% from long range, hitting 13 treys … and lost by 16.
That said, the Tar Heels are just 5-4 this season when hitting 6 or fewer 3-point shots, so something has to give.
3. But you can beat Kansas on the glass
On the other hand, Kansas can be exploited on the offensive backboard. With the exception of their loss to Texas, the opposing team grabbed 11 or more offensive rebounds every time Kansas lost. The Jayhawks are 4-5 when allowing 11 offensive rebounds. And UNC has done that 16 times this year – including their past 3 NCAA Tournament wins, in which they managed 13, 12, and 17 offensive rebounds.
4. Depth is fairly even
Carolina has to be a little concerned about depth, as the Tar Heels’ starting 5 played 187 of 200 total possible minutes in the Final Four win over Duke. UNC got just 2 bench points on a pair of Puff Johnson free throws. But if — and it is a big if – Armando Bacot is good to go, the depth advantage is pretty much a draw. Kansas plays just 7 players in their regular rotation, with 5 more subs playing in the final minute. Kansas got exactly 5 bench points in their win over Villanova, and their starting 5 played 165 of 200 minutes, even in a 16-point runaway win.