2012 Elite Eight Picks: Midwest Regional Final Kansas vs North Carolina Odds and Predictions – Free NCAA Tournament Picks 3/25/2012: If a Mount Rushmore of college basketball teams was built, there is a good chance that North Carolina and Kansas would have a have a place on it. Both programs have been and remain two of the elite in the sport, and when the top-seeded Tarheels (32-5) and second-seeded Jayhawks (31-6) meet in Sunday’s Midwest Regional final, one will add another Final Four banner to their already overstocked rafters. For North Carolina coach Roy Williams, bringing a third national title to his alma mater means defeating the same team that helped make him a legend in the coaching ranks. For Kansas coach Bill Self, who has already brought the school the national title Williams never could, Sunday’s meeting is a chance to further his own legacy. Either way, this is a matchup of college basketball powerhouses in every sense of the word. In this battle of juggernauts, the Jayhawks are two-point favorites.
Although both teams have plenty of talent, their philosophies are much different. North Carolina likes to play at a fast pace, creating as many offensive possessions as possible. With athletic big men Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and John Henson leading the way, the Tarheels are one of the top scoring teams in the country, and they are the top rebounding team. Meanwhile, Kansas likes to play at a slower pace on the offensive end and to play very physical on the defensive end of the court. The Jayhawks are a balanced team, led by forward Thomas Robinson on the inside and point guard Tyshawn Taylor on the perimeter.
However, a big reason why Kansas is favored Sunday is because of an injury to North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall. The speedy Marshall has been the motor that has powered the high-scoring Tarheels’ offense all season. He controls the tempo and pushes the ball in transition, creating open looks for North Carolina’s arsenal of talented big men. Marshall’s broken wrist forced him to miss the Tarheels’ Sweet 16 matchup against 13th-seeded Ohio, and the results weren’t pretty. North Carolina needed overtime to dispatch the Bobcats, scoring just 73 points. The Tarheels can normally reach that total and then some in regulation. Needless to say, North Carolina could be in trouble against the Jayhawks if Marshall can’t take the court.
With Marshall either out or at the very least limited, Taylor becomes the X-factor in Sunday’s game. North Carolina backup point guard Stillman White actually had a decent game offensively against Ohio, dishing out six assists while committing zero turnovers. However, White is a liability on the defensive end for an already mediocre North Carolina perimeter defense. Taylor is one of the most explosive guards in the country, and he can put up 20-plus points on just about any defender. Against White, Taylor could deliver a monster performance.
Even though the Tarheels still have the most talented frontcourt in the country, the injury to Marshall has forced them to change how they play in the middle of the NCAA tournament. It doesn’t help that the slower pace North Carolina has been forced to adopt plays right into the hands of Robinson and the Jayhawks. The Tarheels really don’t have an answer for Taylor, and after looking very vulnerable against Ohio, North Carolina is going to have a tough time dealing with a much more talented and much more balanced Kansas team.
Prediction: Kansas Jayhawks (-1) Cover the Spread
NCAA TOURNAMENT VEGAS ODDS: Favorite: Kansas -1 Total: Over/Under 143.5
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