Kansas is one win away from doing what many thought was unlikely just a few weeks ago: advancing to the Sweet 16 and playing in Kansas City. Most thought the Jayhawks would struggle in the NCAA tournament simply because they did not dominate in the Big 12 conference the way they normally do. If they did win two tournament games and advance to the Sweet 16 we certainly didn’t think they would be in the Midwest region and get to play in Kansas City. The Jayhawks simply have not earned a top seed to get to stay so close to home in the regionals.
Many of the college basketball “experts” picked the Jayhawks to lose to Northeastern in the first round. Kansas made those predictions look foolish with a dominant 34 point victory. Now the Jayhawks are a 2-point underdog against Auburn after this matchup opened as a pick ’em. Kansas gets the rare chance to play the “nobody believes in us” card. The fact that they got to play that card against a 13-seeded Northeastern team is one thing. However, getting a second chance after a dominant first round win is something else.
The thinking for many in this game is that Auburn will destroy Kansas from the three-point line. Auburn has been overrated since getting hot and winning the SEC tournament. However, the Tigers barely survived in the first round against New Mexico State. Auburn shot 38.7% (14-for-21) of their three-point attempts and 45.6% overall. This isn’t to say that Auburn isn’t good. They are a very good team. But the image of them has been exaggerated over the past week.
Kansas’ switching defense was dominant in their first round game in shutting down Northeastern’s three-point shooting. Northeastern was one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country but managed to only shoot 21.4% from behind the arc against the Jayhawks.
The difference in this second round game is that Auburn is used to playing quality defenses. Northeastern had not played a defense like Kansas. When Northeastern tried to drive on Kansas’ defenders they were affected by the Jayhawks’ height inside. Auburn will not be affected in the same way. If Kansas runs Auburn’s shooters off of the three-point line, I would expect Auburn to be able to drive and convert inside at a much higher rate than Northeastern. Kansas has not had a good three-point defense all season. Their success against Northeastern was likely more on Northeastern not having played against athletes like what Kansas showed them. Auburn will not be affected in that way. Kansas will have to play solid defense and hope that Auburn struggles shooting.
A big question is whether Kansas will be able to play with two bigs or if they will have to go to a four guard lineup to help with Auburn’s shooters. Either way, Kansas should be able to control the inside game. If the Jayhawks can make good decisions on offense again in this game and not force outside shots, which they struggle with, they should be able to shot for a good percentage and have a chance to win the game.
If Auburn is hot from the outside this will be a tough game for Kansas. The Jayhawks will not be able to outscore Auburn if Kansas is making two-point baskets inside while Auburn is hitting threes from outside. However, if Kansas plays smart again and plays solid perimeter defense the Jayhawks have a good chance to advance.
Auburn is concerned with how they played defense inside against New Mexico State. They know they need to play better against Dedric Lawson and Kansas.
CBS Sports HQ is leaning towards Kansas:
Prediction: Kansas knows they have to play well to advance. They made great decisions on offense in the first round. They face a much tougher team in the second round. I expect Kansas to be able to play smart and take the right shots and defeat Auburn to advance to the Sprint Center in Kansas City.