From 24 to the Sweet Sixteen, eight more games today to move to next weekend. Here’s our breakdowns on each.
#2 Kansas vs. #10 Stanford — South Region Third Round (at St. Louis, MO) — 12:15 PM ET on CBS
No Joel Embiid, no problem for Kansas against Eastern Kentucky in round two, but can the Jayhawks get by Stanford without their prized big man? Embiid will again be out of the lineup on Sunday when the Cardinal and Jayhawks meet, and at this point, it’s difficult to believe we will see the Cameroon native in a Kansas uniform again this season. Against EKU on Friday, Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor were tremendous in the extended minutes created by Embiid’s absence (combining for 29 points — on 13-14 FG – and 19 rebounds), but with all due respect to the undersized Colonels, the challenge to replace Embiid will grow far more serious against Stanford. 6’11” Stefan Nastic and 6’10” Dwight Powell are unlikely to dominate this game, but each are true bigs capable of scoring the basketball. As a team, the Cardinal are 22nd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage, so don’t expect Perry Eliis, Black, and Traylor to run roughshod on the offensive glass like they did against the Colonels, when they had 14 offensive rebounds.
I suppose an apology is in order for what was a relatively scathing assessment of the Cardinal in advance of their second round game with New Mexico, so after watching their resounding defeat of the Lobos, I say sorry to Coach Dawkins and the gang. While the Greatest Games Of The 2013-14 Stanford Cardinal DVD may not be one that ever sees the light of day, Stanford deserves credit for finding ways to win games ugly. The goal is to score more points than your opponent, and on many notable occasions this season, the Cardinal have been able to do just that. If Stanford is to advance to the Sweet 16 on Sunday, you better believe that their best chance to win looks a lot like what we saw against the Lobos on Friday. It all starts with preventing easy points on the interior and in transition, getting a competitive effort on the backboards, and then you can throw in a dash of Chasson Randle brilliance to make things work on the offensive end. I won’t completely discount a Cardinal victory this time, but believing in Dawkins is still a chore, especially when Bill Self is prowling the opposite sideline. I think it takes Andrew Wiggins and company thirty minutes to find real breathing room in this game, but expect the Jayhawks to be making their way to Memphis next weekend.
The RTC Certified Pick: Kansas
#1 Wichita State vs. #8 Kentucky – Midwest Region Round of 32 (from St. Louis, MO) – at 2:45 PM EST on CBS