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Will KU be able to shake the NCAA shooting jitters? Plus, predictions for KU-UNC in the Elite Eight

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Jesse Newell: Welcome back to the GameDay Cram Session, as Kansas is taking on North Carolina on Sunday afternoon in the Elite Eight in St. Louis, Mo.

Matt, how do you think North Carolina coach Roy Williams handled the numerous questions he received Saturday about his history with Kansas?

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams laughs as his players talk about video games during a press conference on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams laughs as his players talk about video games during a press conference on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

Matt Tait: I thought Williams was great. For starters, he gladly answered every KU question thrown at him and gave some great insight into how much he still loves KU, what 2008 meant to him and how much he respects and admires Bill Self. Just great stuff. I covered coach Williams when I was in school and I grew up with his son, Scott. It was a lot of fun to be around him again. Class act all the way.

JN: Yeah, I was impressed as well.

It seemed like Williams was content with the fact that the questions were coming, so he was relaxed and answered all of them patiently.

It's amazing how much differently this game feels compared to the KU-UNC matchup in 2008. Back then, it seemed like a lot of KU fans wanted to get Roy.

This year, it seems like KU fans are much more concerned with getting back to the Final Four.

Honestly, that's a good thing, because these two teams deserve — in this game — to have the focus on them.

Speaking of the game, Matt, how would you describe the demeanor of the North Carolina players after interviewing them in the locker room Saturday?

North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller smiles as he talks about facing the Kansas big men during a press conference on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

North Carolina forward Tyler Zeller smiles as he talks about facing the Kansas big men during a press conference on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

MT: I'll say this ... I thought the Kansas players were loose and I thought the Carolina players were even looser. That surprised me. Especially with Kendall Marshall's status up in the air, I expected them to be a little tighter. I think both sides showed some very genuine joy in the fact that they're playing this game. Two elite programs, trip to the Final Four on the line, so much history on both sides ... it was really cool to see everyone on both sides enjoying the heck out of the moment.

JN: It's funny you mention how loose KU seemed, because I feel like we haven't seen any of that from the Jayhawks during the actual games in this tournament.

Tyshawn Taylor (10) loses the ball late in the second half of the Jayhawks' 60-57 win over North Carolina State in St. Louis Friday, March 16, 2012.

Tyshawn Taylor (10) loses the ball late in the second half of the Jayhawks' 60-57 win over North Carolina State in St. Louis Friday, March 16, 2012. by Mike Yoder

How else can you explain KU's horrific shooting the last two games? In Self's nine seasons at KU, he's 2-7 when his team has shot an effective field goal percentage of 39 percent or lower.

The two wins? Last Sunday against Purdue (38.7 eFG%) and Friday against N.C. State (38.3 eFG%).

Not only has KU shot it poorly, but it's also rushed up bad shots. Tyshawn Taylor has been impatient, while Thomas Robinson also has tried to do too much on occasion.

In his postgame talk after the N.C. State win, Self reminded his players that they were much better offensively when they made the defense work by moving the ball quickly side to side.

Kansas head coach Bill Self smiles next to Elijah Johnson as his players speak to his personality during a press conference on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Kansas head coach Bill Self smiles next to Elijah Johnson as his players speak to his personality during a press conference on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

We'll see if KU shows better composure this time after laboring offensively in each of its previous three tournament games.

All right, Matt, what's your prediction for this game?

MT: I'll take Kansas by four in a classic.

Elijah Johnson (15) along with from left, Jeff Withey, Tyshawn Taylor, and Travis Releford, laugh during a huddle in the second-half of the Jayhawks 60-57 win over North Carolina State in St. Louis Friday, March 16, 2012...

Elijah Johnson (15) along with from left, Jeff Withey, Tyshawn Taylor, and Travis Releford, laugh during a huddle in the second-half of the Jayhawks 60-57 win over North Carolina State in St. Louis Friday, March 16, 2012... by Mike Yoder

I went with UNC in my bracket, but I'm going with KU now and that's because of the injury to UNC point guard Kendall Marshall. If he plays, he'll be limited and that will be an advantage for KU. If he sits, that, too, will be an advantage for KU, who will make UNC reserve and Marshall replacement Stilman White pay way more than Ohio did on Friday night.

JN: I had this as my original pick and see no reason to change it now: I'll take KU by three.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson swings his towel after a Jayhawk bucket against North Carolina State during the second half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson swings his towel after a Jayhawk bucket against North Carolina State during the second half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

If North Carolina does have a weakness defensively (besides not forcing many turnovers), it's that the Tar Heels have a habit of allowing a lot of three-pointers.

Ohio exposed this a bit on Friday, as the Bobcats were able to penetrate and kick out effectively while making 12 of 32 threes (38 percent).

I think KU will get open shots from the outside. And this is the game the Jayhawks will have to hit some of them.

No, KU doesn't have to make up for its 12-for-54 performance from three so far in the tournament (22 percent). But I think if the Jayhawks can shoot right at their season average from three (35 percent) while taking a high number of open shots on the perimeter, they stand a great chance of winning this game. Something like 9-for-26 would be a big boost for KU, especially with as well as UNC defends inside.

Also in KU's favor is the fact that UNC relies heavily on two-pointers for its offense. KU enters as the No. 1 two-point defense in the country (40 percent), so if Jeff Withey can stay on the floor and KU can get back in transition, I like the Jayhawks' chances against an average-shooting Tar Heels' team.

Kansas center Jeff Withey blocks a shot by North Carolina State forward Richard Howell during the second half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Kansas center Jeff Withey blocks a shot by North Carolina State forward Richard Howell during the second half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

All right, Matt, who's your Hawk to Rock?

MT: Let's try this one more time ... I'll go with Tyshawn Taylor who simply has to be due for a big game.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor regains possession as North Carolina State forward Scott Wood defensds late in the second half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor regains possession as North Carolina State forward Scott Wood defensds late in the second half on Friday, March 23, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

Taylor has not been as bad in this tournament as his shooting numbers suggest. And I think his ability to frustrate the UNC offense on D and get to the rim on offense will give Kansas a dimension that UNC doesn't have without Marshall and also one that will give the Carolina D a tough time. Beyond that, I think this is the game his jumper returns. You know the cliche ... Big-time players step up in big-time situations. This is as big as it gets for KU and for Taylor's legacy.

JN: Give me Thomas Robinson.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson settles into his headphones as he is photographed in the team locker room after an afternoon of interviews on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson settles into his headphones as he is photographed in the team locker room after an afternoon of interviews on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

One of North Carolina's biggest strengths offensively is offensive rebounding, and Robinson is pretty much the only KU player who can prevent the Tar Heels from dominating the glass.

The junior enters as the No. 1 defensive rebounder in the nation percentage-wise, and he's going to have lots of opportunities to help his team by ending possessions and out-toughing the UNC big men for boards.

A high-tempo game plus an amped-up Robinson plus a lot of UNC missed shots could potentially add up to one of the best rebounding games of his career.

Give me 20 rebounds for Robinson in a close KU win.

Predictions tally (through 36 games)
Tom/Matt: 29-7 record, 320 points off (8.9 points off/game)
Jesse: 32-4 record, 273 points off (7.6 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock

Tom Keegan/Matt Tait
Towson: Tyshawn Taylor (4th in Keegan ratings)
Kentucky: Tyshawn Taylor (1st in Keegan ratings)
Georgetown: Elijah Johnson (4th in Keegan ratings)
UCLA: Tyshawn Taylor (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Duke: Elijah Johnson (4th in Keegan ratings)
FAU: Jeff Withey (4th in Keegan ratings)
South Florida: Tyshawn Taylor (1st in Keegan ratings)
Long Beach State: Elijah Johnson (7th in Keegan ratings)
Ohio State: Thomas Robinson (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Davidson: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
USC: Jeff Withey (4th in Keegan ratings)
Howard: Kevin Young (4th in Keegan ratings)
North Dakota: Elijah Johnson (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Kansas State: Tyshawn Taylor (5th in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma: Tyshawn Taylor (4th in Keegan ratings)
Texas Tech: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Iowa State: Elijah Johnson (4th in Keegan ratings)
Baylor: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Texas: Thomas Robinson (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Texas A&M: Thomas Robinson (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Iowa State: Tyshawn Taylor (1st in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Missouri: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Baylor: Thomas Robinson (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma State: Thomas Robinson (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Kansas State: Tyshawn Taylor (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Texas Tech: Thomas Robinson (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Texas A&M: Tyshawn Taylor (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Missouri: Thomas Robinson (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma State: Travis Releford (7th in Keegan ratings)
Texas: Tyshawn Taylor (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Texas A&M: Tyshawn Taylor (4th in Keegan ratings)
Baylor: Jeff Withey (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Detroit: Tyshawn Taylor (4th in Keegan ratings)
Purdue: Thomas Robinson (4th in Keegan ratings)
N.C. State: Tyshawn Taylor (7th in Keegan ratings)
Average: 3.1st in Keegan ratings

Jesse Newell
Towson: Conner Teahan (6th in Keegan ratings)
Kentucky: Elijah Johnson (4th in Keegan ratings)
Georgetown: Kevin Young (9th in Keegan ratings)
UCLA: Elijah Johnson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Duke: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
FAU: Tyshawn Taylor (7th in Keegan ratings)
South Florida: Elijah Johnson (6th in Keegan ratings)
Long Beach State: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Ohio State: Travis Releford (5th in Keegan ratings)
Davidson: Jeff Withey (5th in Keegan ratings)
USC: Elijah Johnson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Howard: Tyshawn Taylor (1st in Keegan ratings)
North Dakota: Conner Teahan (5th in Keegan ratings)
Kansas State: Travis Releford (1st in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma: Elijah Johnson (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Texas Tech: Travis Releford (2nd in Keegan ratings
Iowa State: Thomas Robinson (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Baylor: Kevin Young (9th in Keegan ratings)
Texas: Travis Releford (5th in Keegan ratings)
Texas A&M: Tyshawn Taylor (1st in Keegan ratings)
Iowa State: Jeff Withey (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma: Conner Teahan (6th in Keegan ratings)
Missouri: Kevin Young (8th in Keegan ratings)
Baylor: Jeff Withey (1st in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma State: Tyshawn Taylor (4th in Keegan ratings)
Kansas State: Travis Releford (4th in Keegan ratings)
Texas Tech: Kevin Young (4th in Keegan ratings)
Texas A&M: Jeff Withey (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Missouri: Travis Releford (6th in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma State: Jeff Withey (6th in Keegan ratings)
Texas: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Texas A&M: Jeff Withey (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Baylor: Kevin Young (5th in Keegan ratings)
Detroit: Jeff Withey (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Purdue: Tyshawn Taylor (3rd in Keegan ratings)
N.C. State: Jeff Withey (1st in Keegan ratings)
Average: 3.8th in Keegan ratings

Comments

jayhawker_97 5 years, 7 months ago

i'd say HTR is Withey, just because he's in his zone now.

Brett Arnberger 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say Teahan. I think he gets out of his slump and has a shooting day of like 4 of 6 from deep. I'll take KU by 1 with Taylor hitting the winning shot inside of 20 seconds.

pepper_bar 5 years, 7 months ago

Hey Jesse, thanks for posting text of the cram session for those of us who can't access the video. Was an interesting read today, can't wait to see how the game plays out compared to your analysis. Rock Chalk!

Robert Brock 5 years, 7 months ago

The Hawk to Rock may be Conner Teahan if he is the only Jayhawk who can score. Robinson and Withey have to overcome Zeller and Henson. Better make your bunnies, Guys.

Eric Baker 5 years, 7 months ago

I noticed in an interview that Roy Williams said he hasn't ever watched a tape of the 2008 Final Four game and he probably never will. I wonder if that'll be an advantage for us, hehe. Bill said he watched it yesterday morning, and pointed out that North Carolina runs a bit of a system that stays similar despite personnel changes. I wonder if we're set up to exploit the same weaknesses? Or is that just wishful thinking.

On a similar note, I love how superstitious sports fans get during big games. Some of my friends are carefully trying to recreate the outfit they wore during the 2008 Final Four game.

Andrew Holmes 5 years, 7 months ago

Interesting tidbit from Kendall Marshall on UNC's website. He says that because Ohio wasn't a year in year out powerhouse that UNC felt like they had to win the game, but now that they are playing Kansas who is a power every year there might not be as much pressure to win. I think the same goes for our guys. Though seeds don't matter, its hard for humans to totally ignore the double digit seeds. Like Marshall said our guys have probably seen the seeds and said to themselves "We have to win this game." Tonight going in as underdogs, I fully expect our guys to play freer and I believe our shots will start to fall and this to be a great game.

JHAWKNPHX 5 years, 7 months ago

We have to stop NC in their transition game and force them to play 1/2 court. Roy's teams always try to use their speed down the court and size in the paint. We force NC to take jump shots, we win by 4

HawksWin 5 years, 7 months ago

Jesse, I just watched a video on Elijah who is "ready to play Michael Jordan". Love it!! He's great with media. Knows what to say, when to say and how to say. Here is the clip.
http://cjonline.com/sports/2012-03-22/kus-backcourt-brotherhood-forms-houston

actorman 5 years, 7 months ago

Help me ... to help you! Help me ... to help you! (Sorry, couldn't resist. Hope you get the reference.)

WilburNether 5 years, 7 months ago

Withey needs to step up and rebound. He had almost as many rebounds taken away from vs. NC State as he had blocked shots.

actorman 5 years, 7 months ago

+1

It's always amazed me that Withey isn't a better rebounder than he is, especially since he's so good at blocked shots. You'd think there would be some carryover in terms of timing, leaping ability, etc.

Marcia Parsons 5 years, 7 months ago

I can't stop worrying about fouls. I'm so afraid UNC is going to get all the calls under the basket when they're fighting for balls and position. If TRob and Withey end up having to sit most of the first half, we're screwed.

Pitthawk34 5 years, 7 months ago

We had a great year but it will end today. Going get get beat by 12. We just cannot score we have no true scorers. Shooting the ball is just not something that you forget how to do for 3 straight games and then all of the sudden start shooting it well again especially in the tourney. We are in trouble today even if NC is limping. When you have to rely on Travis Releford to hit one 3 a half. Things are bad.

hawk_of_ages 5 years, 7 months ago

"Shooting the ball is just not something that you forget how to do for 3 straight games and then all of the sudden start shooting it well again especially in the tourney."

Right, because no player in history has ever come out of a shooting slump before. Once you shoot badly for a few games in row, you might as well just hang up your sneakers and look for a career in broadcasting. You're done.

Eliott Reeder 5 years, 7 months ago

Thanks for that link HawksWin. Absolutely awesome quote from EJ...

Question: "Are you preparing for Marshall to play"

EJ's response: "I'm preparing to play whoever, I'm preparing to play Michael Jordan if he wants to put a Carolina jersey on again... I'm just ready to play, man, doesn't really matter who's on the court... there's gonna be ten people out there and it's gonna be a dogfight regardless, at all times."

LOVE IT!!!

Alohahawk 5 years, 7 months ago

In the style of Abbott and Costello: "Who's on first? (TT - Will the 'real' TT show up today?) I don't know's on second. (EJ, is his 3 'on', or will he drive into the paint?) and so on." JW's playing 'short' stop. TRob's the 'man' at third base, working in tandem with JW. Releford is covering the 'entire' outfield. Coach Self is pitching, with a 'shutout' in sight. Meanwhile, the bench is behind the plate, ready to knock opponents down before they can score. CT? He's the designated hitter, always a 'homerun' threat.

90sHawk 5 years, 7 months ago

Geez, so much pessimism about the game. I for one am excited, and despite the shooting woes against Purdue and NC St, refuse to believe we are out of the game until the clock hits zero and the scoreboard says we lost. Rock Chalk baby !!!

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