The Kansas Jayhawks and Detroit Titans open up round action in the Midwest Regional at the CenturyLink Center this evening.
The second-seeded Jayhawks won the Big 12 regular season title and were the favorite to take home the conference tourney crown, but fell to Baylor in the semifinals (81-72) and in the process lost out on a number-one seed for this event. Kansas is making its 41st NCAA Tournament appearance, including its 23rd straight, the longest active streak in the nation. The team's three national titles came in 1952, 1988 and 2008.
Detroit's tournament history is not quite as distinguished, as this represents just the sixth appearance in the Big Dance and first since 1999 for the Titans. Ray McCallum's Titans have posted a strong season at 22-13 overall. The team was a more modest 11-7 in the Horizon League, but navigated the HL Tournament field to capture the tournament title with a 70-50 rout of Valparaiso in the championship game and in turn earning the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
These teams have met just three previous times, with Kansas winning all three matchups, including a 63-43 victory in Lawrence in the last meeting in 2006.
Sophomore Ray McCallum (coach's son) was masterful in the championship win over the Crusaders, netting 21 points, while grabbing six rebounds. Jason Calliste posted 17 points in support, while LaMarcus Lowe recorded a double- double with 14 points and 10 rebounds in the win.
McCallum was named to the All-HL First-Team, shooting .465 from the floor and leading the team in both scoring (15.6 ppg) and assists (3.9 apg). Senior Chase Simon (13.5 ppg) is a viable scoring option as well for Detroit, as are Eli Holman (10.9 ppg) and Jason Calliste (10.4 ppg). The 6-10 Holman converted 61.3 percent of his shots this season, while grabbing a team-high 6.8 rpg. He was named the Horizon League Sixth Man of the Year.
Four of Kansas' five starters notched double figures, but the team as a whole converted a modest 42.6 percent from the floor in the loss to Baylor. The biggest discrepancy came from behind the arc, as Baylor amassed nine three- pointers to Kansas' two. The Bears were also an impressive 24-of-28 from the free-throw line.
The Jayhawks have one of the nation's premier inside/out games with the play of junior forward Thomas Robinson and senior guard Tyshawn Taylor. National Player of the Year honors have come down to Robinson and Kentucky's Anthony Davis. The 6-10 Robinson has certainly done his part, averaging a double- double with team-highs of 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds per game. Taylor is a dual threat in the backcourt with the ability to fill up the basket himself (17.3 ppg) and get others the ball (4.8 apg). Balance and depth comes in the form of guards Elijah Johnson (9.6 ppg, 3.7 apg) and Travis Releford (8.5 ppg) and center Jeff Withey (9.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg).