6:37 p.m. Friday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas
TBS; KCSP (610 AM)
•ABOUT MICHIGAN (28-7):
The fourth-seeded Wolverines are in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1994 — and happy to be done with a grueling Big Ten schedule. Michigan, which was ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll on Jan. 28, had a 6-6 stretch in the season’s final weeks, but rebounded in the first week of the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines ran past South Dakota State 71-56 and clobbered No. 5 seed VCU 78-53. Michigan coach John Beilein is in his sixth season in Ann Arbor after leading West Virginia to the Elite Eight in 2005 and Sweet 16 in 2006.
•ABOUT KANSAS (31-5):
In Bill Self’s 10 seasons at Kansas, the Jayhawks have advanced to the Sweet 16 seven times. The run will continue Friday as the Jayhawks attempt to advance to the Elite Eight for the third straight year. The Jayhawks looked sloppy at times while dispatching No. 16 seed Western Kentucky and No. 8 North Carolina, but KU has made a living winning ugly during the last two NCAA Tournaments. The Jayhawks trail the all-time series with Michigan 5-2, but took the last two meetings, including a 67-60 overtime victory in Ann Arbor in 2011. Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford both went scoreless that day.BACKCOURT
Kansas coach Bill Self says Michigan point guard Trey Burke would be his choice for national player of the year. The Wolverines, who have committed the fewest turnovers in the country, also lean on junior Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.9 points per game) and freshman sharpshooter Nik Stauskas, who makes 43.4 percent of his three-point tries. On the other side, KU freshman Ben McLemore struggled during his first two tournament games, and senior Elijah Johnson has been inconsistent. Senior Travis Releford is the “old reliable,” but he’ll need to have another spectacular game to close the gap in the backcourt.
KU senior Jeff Withey has blocked more shots (43) than anyone in NCAA Tournament history not named Tim Duncan. That says it all. Duncan’s record is 50, and if Withey approaches it Friday night, that bodes well for KU’s chances. Michigan will counter with freshman Mitch McGary, who had a career-high 21 points and 14 rebounds in Michigan’s round-of-32 win over VCU. McGary is a physical defender, but he hasn’t seen a rim-protector like Withey in the Big Ten.
Both teams have four players that play at least 30 minutes per game, so the benches don’t go too deep. Michigan junior Jordan Morgan (6.8 points per game) started 27 games before being replaced by McGary. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, could use another sterling performance from sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe, who had 12 points against North Carolina. And if freshman Perry Ellis plays well, the Jayhawks have a slight advantage.
The experience and coaching favors Kansas. The Jayhawks have four seniors — including three fifth-year players — in their starting lineup. Three of those players started in the NCAA title game last season. Michigan will likely start three freshmen and one sophomore, and it features zero starters that have played in the Sweet 16.
•BOTTOM LINE: Kansas coach Bill Self is 7-2 in the Sweet 16, including a 6-0 mark when his team is the better seed. After the NCAA Tournament’s opening week, Michigan became a trendy Final Four pick. But if the Jayhawks can contain Trey Burke, their toughness and veteran experience could be the difference in a close game.