Kansas City, MO (Sports Network) - As the top seed in the South Region, the
Kansas Jayhawks will tip off their 2013 NCAA Tournament run on Friday night
when they take on the 16th-seeded Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in second-round
action at the Sprint Center.
The winner will advance to the third round on Sunday to play either eighth-
seeded North Carolina or ninth-seeded Villanova.
WKU's season as a whole was nothing special, as it went just 10-10 in the Sun
Belt Conference, but for the second time in as many years, it made an
improbable run through the conference tournament, earning wins over South
Alabama, Arkansas State and FIU in consecutive days to win the championship
and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Hilltoppers (20-15) are no
strangers to the Big Dance, having made 23 overall appearances, including four
in the past six seasons. Since 1993, WKU has seven NCAA Tournament wins, while
the rest of the SBC has gone a dismal 0-14.
Kansas (29-5) put together another dominating season, winning the Big 12
Conference regular-season crown for the ninth straight year and breezing
through the conference tournament with wins over Texas Tech (91-63), Iowa
State (88-73) and Kansas State in the championship game (70-54) for its sixth
tournament title in Bill Self's reign as head coach. The Jayhawks have made 42
NCAA Tournament appearances, including 24 in a row, the longest active streak
in the nation, and this marks their 11th No. 1 seed since 1979. With one more
victory, they will also become the first team in NCAA Division I history to
win 30 or more games in four straight seasons. KU has won three national
titles (1952, 1988, 2008).
Kansas leads the all-time series with Western Kentucky, 3-1, and the Jayhawks
won the most recent meeting in November of 1997, 75-62.
The Hilltoppers have pieced together rather modest numbers this season at both
ends of the floor, as they score 67.5 ppg on just a shade over 43 percent
efficiency from the field, while surrendering 65.7 ppg. They are a strong
rebounding team with a +3.2 margin, but then again they haven't had to play
many teams as athletically gifted as Kansas. T.J. Price is the team's top
scoring threat with 15.3 ppg, doing the majority of his damage from 3-point
territory (79-of-218, .362). George Fant is a quality piece down low with 12.9
ppg, 6.8 rpg and 1.1 bpg, while Jamal Crook is a solid point guard with 12.0
ppg, 4.0 apg and 1.5 spg. Crook missed 11 games due to injury earlier in the
season, and WKU went just 3-8 in his absence (17-7 with him).
The Jayhawks haven't ascended to No. 1 seed status by accident, as they are
one of the most well-rounded squads in the nation, scoring 75.4 ppg and
allowing 61.5 ppg, while outshooting their opponents from the field by an
astound margin (.480 to .360). Leading the way is freshman sensation Ben
McLemore (16.4 ppg), who has proven to be one of the deadliest shooters in the
country, making 50.7 percent of his field goal attempts, 43.7 percent from 3-
point range, and 86.7 percent from the foul line, while adding 5.3 rpg, 2.0
apg and 1.1 spg for good measure. Jeff Withey, a 7-0 center, tallies 13.6 ppg
and 8.4 rpg and is an elite interior defender with 3.8 bpg. As the third
option, Travis Releford (11.5 ppg) has shined by making greater than 56
percent of his field goal attempts, while Elijah Johnson nets 10.1 ppg and
gets his teammates involved with 4.8 apg.
The Sports Network