Which KU bench players will emerge against Richmond? Plus, predictions for Friday's Sweet 16 matchup
Jesse Newell: Welcome back to the GameDay Cram Session, as Kansas is taking on Richmond on Friday night in the Sweet 16 in San Antonio, Texas.
Tom, what's something you learned about Richmond from the media session Thursday?
Tom Keegan: The Spiders' coach Chris Mooney said that his team tends to get out of sorts when its defense doesn't stop people and that's when they have troubles at the other end. So from a KU point of view, the more aggressive the better, offensively. Or was him saying that a means of trying to draw KU into a Spider web of deception?
JN: Ha. Good question. Mooney did seem like a bright guy, so I wouldn't put anything past him.
The Richmond coach also said that one of the key matchups in the game would be seeing how KU's Marcus and Markieff Morris performed defensively against his talented big men.
Six-foot-10 senior Justin Harper is a Marcus Morris clone, as he hits jumpers from inside and outside while keeping his turnovers low (in fact, Draft Express has him going 26th overall, just seven spots behind Marcus and three spots behind Markieff).
Meanwhile, 6-9 senior center Dan Geriot oftentimes acts like a point guard in Richmond's Princeton-like offense, as dishes out 23.5 percent of his team's assists during his time on the floor while also making 42.3 percent of his threes.
The Morris twins will be playing against two post players that are just as versatile as they are, and they'll need to be focused in defensively if KU hopes to slow down Richmond's slow-paced, high-efficiency offense.
Speaking of KU, Tom, which Jayhawks' bench player do you think could have a big impact during Friday's game?
TK: Thomas Robinson is capable of doing that any game, any time. For some reason, I think Josh Selby will have his best game since coming back from his foot injury. It's now-or-never time for Selby, unless that time came and went in Tulsa. In the 11 games since his return, he's made 4 of 24 three-point shots and is shooting 28 percent overall.
JN: Though he's averaged only 13.5 minutes per game so far in the NCAA Tournament, this matchup looks to be one where Thomas Robinson could thrive.
Richmond has had all sorts of problems keeping opponents off the offensive glass, allowing 11 offensive rebounds to Vanderbilt and 12 offensive rebounds to Morehead State in extremely low possession games.
Robinson is KU's best offensive rebounder, and he could give the Jayhawks a huge lift if he's able to turn missed shots into easy baskets, much like he did in the second half of KU's regular-season finale against Missouri.
All right, Tom, what's your prediction for this game?
TK: Kansas 76, Richmond 66.
For Richmond, this is a very big stage. For Kansas, it's a stop along the way to a very big stage.
JN: I'll say KU by 12. I'm convinced this game will come down to rebounding, and the Jayhawks should have the huge edge there. Richmond's slow pace will only be a factor if KU falls behind by a significant margin, and I'm not going to predict that happens.
OK, Tom, who's your Hawk to Rock?
TK: Marcus Morris.
The do-it-all junior forward is playing like a man on a mission to get to the Final Four.
JN: Though I mentioned that I think Thomas Robinson will have a big game above, I'm going to break one of my own rules and make Tyshawn Taylor my Hawk to Rock for a second straight game.
The key to beating a matchup zone like Richmond's is to attack it off the dribble, and Taylor is KU's best at doing that.
The junior guard has been playing his best basketball of the season for KU in the last two weeks, and because a matchup zone shuts down many of the passing lanes, the Jayhawks will rely on Taylor to split defenders off the dribble to create a numbers advantage offensively.
If he's able to do that — without turning it over against a Richmond defense that doesn't force many turnovers — then KU's chances of advancing to the Elite Eight improve dramatically.
Tracking the picks
Predictions tally (through 36 games)
Tom: 31-5 record, 376 points off (10.4 points off/game)
Jesse: 34-2 record, 401 points off (11.1 points off/game)
Hawk to Rock
Longwood: Tyrel Reed (6th in Keegan ratings)
Valparaiso: Marcus Morris (1st)
North Texas: Tyrel Reed (6th)
Texas A&M-CC: Marcus Morris (5th)
Ohio: Markieff Morris (3rd)
Arizona: Marcus Morris (1st)
UCLA: Tyshawn Taylor (1st)
Memphis: Markieff Morris (4th)
Colorado State: Tyshawn Taylor (2nd)
USC: Tyrel Reed (6th)
Cal: Marcus Morris (6th)
UT Arlington: Tyrel Reed (8th)
Miami: Marcus Morris (3rd)
UMKC: Markieff Morris (9th)
Michigan: Thomas Robinson (8th)
Iowa State: Tyshawn Taylor (7th)
Nebraska: Josh Selby (9th)
Baylor: Josh Selby (3rd)
Texas: Marcus Morris (3rd)
Colorado: Markieff Morris (5th)
Kansas State: Marcus Morris (4th)
Texas Tech: Markieff Morris (4th)
Nebraska: Mario Little (7th)
Missouri: Tyrel Reed (7th)
Iowa State: Markieff Morris (2nd)
Kansas State: Brady Morningstar (2nd)
Colorado: Marcus Morris (3rd)
Oklahoma State: Marcus Morris (1st)
Oklahoma: Tyrel Reed (3rd)
Texas A&M: Tyrel Reed (1st)
Missouri: Tyrel Reed (3rd)
Oklahoma State: Josh Selby (7th)
Colorado: Thomas Robinson (7th)
Texas: Marcus Morris (2nd)
Boston: Thomas Robinson: (6th)
Illinois: Tyrel Reed (7th)
Average Hawk to Rock: 4.5th in Keegan ratings
Longwood: Markieff Morris (1st in Keegan ratings)
Valparaiso: Brady Morningstar (8th)
North Texas: Tyrel Reed (6th)
Texas A&M-CC: Thomas Robinson (2nd)
Ohio: Tyshawn Taylor (4th)
Arizona: Brady Morningstar (8th)
UCLA: Markieff Morris (6th)
Memphis: Thomas Robinson (1st)
Colorado State: Markieff Morris (1st)
USC: Thomas Robinson (2nd)
Cal: Markieff Morris (2nd)
UT Arlington: Brady Morningstar (10th)
Miami: Tyshawn Taylor (8th)
UMKC: Josh Selby (1st)
Michigan: Tyrel Reed (4th)
Iowa State: Marcus Morris (1st)
Nebraska: Thomas Robinson (3rd)
Baylor: Tyshawn Taylor (6th)
Texas: Josh Selby (8th)
Colorado: Jeff Withey (7th)
Kansas State: Tyrel Reed (8th)
Texas Tech: Thomas Robinson (1st)
Nebraska: Tyrel Reed (5th)
Missouri: Markieff Morris (3rd)
Iowa State: Brady Morningstar (4th)
Kansas State: Marcus Morris (4th)
Colorado: Josh Selby (6th)
Oklahoma State: Elijah Johnson (2nd)
Oklahoma: Markieff Morris (2nd)
Texas A&M: Thomas Robinson (7th)
Missouri: Markieff Morris (6th)
Oklahoma State: Tyshawn Taylor (4th)
Colorado: Marcus Morris (1st)
Texas: Brady Morningstar (4th)
Boston: Markieff Morris (3rd)
Illinois: Tyshawn Taylor (3rd)
Average Hawk to Rock: 4.2nd in Keegan ratings