Kansas Needs Good Start vs. Niagara
Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, no top seed has ever failed to make it out of the first round. However, Kansas (30-4) must overcome its own recent tournament history.
As a No. 3 seed in 2005, the Jayhawks fell to 14th-seeded Bucknell.
Oddsmakers have made Kansas -19 point spread favorites (College Basketball Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 149 total points (View College Basketball Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 76% of bets for this game have been placed on Kansas -19
Last year they were seeded fourth and suffered another stunning first-round upset, losing 77-73 to No. 13 seed Bradley.
None of this year's five leading scorers were on the team two years ago, though, and comparisons with that squad irk Kansas coach Bill Self.
"This team had nothing to do with the Bucknell loss," he said. "Nothing. They didn't score one point in the game."
The Jayhawks opened this season ranked third in the nation, but fell out of the top 10 after losses to Oral Roberts and DePaul in their first eight games. But Kansas recovered to go 24-2 the rest of the way and enters the tournament on an 11-game winning streak, including an 88-84 overtime victory over Texas on Sunday to win the Big 12 tournament for the second straight season.
"This year, the fact that we started out with expectations, lost early which humbled and toughened us up, we played games with high stakes and national implications, which we didn't last year," Self said. "I think through that maturation process we should be better to handle the attention that the NCAA gets."
Kansas boasts one of the deepest rosters in the tournament, as eight players led the team in scoring in at least one game this season. Four players - all underclassmen - have scoring averages in double figures, and freshman Sherron Collins adds 9.7 points per game off the bench. Collins scored a team-high 20 in Sunday's win.
This West Regional game at the United Center is a homecoming for Collins and sophomore forward Julian Wright, who are both natives of the Chicago area. They didn't fare well in a visit to the area earlier this season, though, losing 64-57 to DePaul on Dec. 2 - Kansas' only defeat to a non-tournament team. Wright scored 12 points in that game, while Collins had five.
The Jayhawks are allowing just 61.0 points per game - their best mark since giving up 60.2 in 1968-69 - but their defense will be tested by a Niagara team which has five players averaging in double figures.
The Purple Eagles (23-11), champions of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, made eight 3-pointers in Tuesday night's 77-69 victory over Florida A&M in the tournament play-in game.
"Niagara scores the ball as well anyone we've played," Self said. "Aside from Texas, they are probably averaging more points than anyone we've played this year. All their big guys shoot 3-pointers, which is a bit different and unorthodox."
Clif Brown, a 6-foot-7 senior, shot 6-for-11 from 3-point range en route to a 32-point performance Tuesday, helping Niagara to its first NCAA tournament victory since 1970. The Purple Eagles, who bounced back from an 11-18 record in 2005-06 and a 1-6 start to this season, have won 12 consecutive games.
"We just look for the next task, keep moving, keep making history," Niagara forward J.R. Duffey said.
The winner of this game will face eighth-seeded Kentucky or No. 9 seed Villanova in the second round on Sunday.
by: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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