Arlington, TX – A pair of history-rich programs square off in the South Regional semifinals of the 2013 NCAA Tournament on Friday, as the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks take on the fourth-seeded Michigan Wolverines at Cowboys Stadium.
The winner of this Sweet 16 matchup will advance to the Elite Eight to tangle with either Florida Gulf Coast or Florida on Sunday.
Michigan won each of its first two tournament games in convincing fashion, taking down 13th-seeded South Dakota State in the second round, 71-56, before making easy work of fifth-seeded VCU in the third round, 78-53. The Wolverines are now 28-7 on the season and have advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 19 years.
Kansas (31-5) experienced a scare against 16th-seeded Western Kentucky in its first game, but eventually escaped with a 64-57 win. Its third-round matchup was more impressive as the team overcame a halftime deficit to knock off eighth-seeded North Carolina, 70-58, for head coach Bill Self's 300th win at the helm for KU. The Jayhawks have been a model of consistency under Self, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year and for the seventh time in 10 seasons.
Michigan leads the all-time series with Kansas, 5-2, although the Jayhawks have won each of the last two meetings -- December of 2009 (75-64), and January of 2011 (67-60).
Michigan had a strong offensive showing in the Round of 32, shooting 51.7 percent from the floor, but even more impressive was its ability to stifle the high-powered Rams, as it held VCU to less than 40 percent efficiency from the floor (including 3-of-16 from 3-point range) in the 25-point victory. Mitch McGary picked a great time for a career-day, shooting 10-of-11 from the field for 21 points to go with 14 rebounds. Trey Burke netted 18 points and dished out seven assists, while Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Glenn Robinson III poured in 14 points apiece.
The Maize and Blue have been outstanding at both ends of the court all season long, boasting a +12.7 scoring margin while outshooting their opponents from the floor, .485 to .419. The offensive attack is paced by Burke, who was named Big Ten Player of the Year and averages 18.8 ppg and 6.7 apg while boasting strong percentages from the field overall (.470), as well as from beyond the arc (.387). Hardaway, Jr. also has the ability to take over a game with his offensive exploits, netting 14.9 ppg, while Nik Stauskas (11.3 ppg) is lethal from 3-point range (72-of-166, .434). Robinson III rounds out the balanced attack with 11.1 ppg.
Kansas appeared in trouble when it was down by nine at the half against UNC, but after shooting just 25 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, it made a lofty 63 percent of its total shots in the second stanza as it pulled away for the 12-point win. Travis Releford led all scorers with 22 points, doing so on 9-of-13 accuracy from the field. Jeff Withey was a beast in the paint, tallying 16 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks. Naadir Tharpe contributed 12 points off the bench, while Kevin Young finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.
The Jayhawks are a well-balanced bunch, posting nearly identical numbers to Michigan in both scoring offense (75.1 ppg) and scoring defense (61.3 ppg), although they hold a big advantage in field goal percentage defense (.359, best in the country). Ben McLemore is typically the team's spark plug, shooting 50.5 percent from the floor and 43.1 percent from beyond the arc en route to 16.2 ppg. In addition to recording 13.7 ppg and 8.3 rpg, Withey is one of the nation's elite interior defenders with 3.9 bpg. Releford (11.5 ppg) is extremely efficient as he connects on nearly 57 percent of his field goal attempts, while Elijah Johnson tacks on 9.9 ppg and 4.7 apg for good measure.