Friday March 22 10:17 p.m. EST on TBS
NCAA Basketball Spread: Kansas -8
NC State was the last team announced as part of the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday. The Wolfpack made sure their stay wasn’t short though. They knocked off the San Diego State Aztecs and then the Georgetown Hoyas. Kansas took care of Detroit before being pushed to the limit by Purdue. The Boilermakers led almost the entire game before Kansas squeaked out a 63-60 win. Can the Wolfpack hang around with the Jayhawks?
Mark Gottfried has done a terrific job with the NC State basketball program in his first year. This is a young team that everyone knew had tons of talent, but they have really come together over the last month. C.J. Leslie leads the team in scoring at 14.6 points per game. Leslie is an ultra-talented 6’8 forward who has matured a great deal this year. Leslie has scored in double figures in 15 straight games. Point guard Lorenzo Brown has been an assists machine. He already has 231 assists this year. He is also second on the team in scoring at 12.8 per contest.
Most good teams have a sharp shooter on the outside to stretch the defense, and Scott Wood fits the mold perfectly. Wood shoots 42% from three-point range and 90% from the free throw line. NC State’s biggest strength is its depth in the frontcourt. Richard Howell and DeShawn Painter have been terrific in the NCAA Tournament. These guys will have their hands full with Thomas Robinson on Friday night. Defensively, the Wolfpack give up 67.8 points per game.
Kansas came up with some big defensive stops to pull off a late comeback against Purdue Sunday night. The Boilermakers led by double digits in the second half, but Kansas kept fighting and ended up on the right side of the scoreboard. It wasn’t a pretty game for the Jayhawks, but the NCAA Tournament is all about surviving and advancing. While many others had a down game, Elijah Johnson stepped up with 18 points to lead the way for the Jayhawks. Thomas Robinson is a Player of the Year candidate, and he has been a great leader for this team. Robinson averages 17.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.
The Jayhawks have a great senior leader in the backcourt in Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor averages 16.6 points per game, and he shoots 42% from beyond the arc. The one problem he has is he can get a little out of control at times, as evidenced by his 120 turnovers this year. Jeff Withey is a terrific shot blocker for the Kansas defense. Withey has 116 blocks this year. The strength of this Kansas team is their defense. Opponents shoot just 38.1% from the floor against the Jayhawks.
Kansas is the more complete team, but NC State is much better than most people realize. I think the Wolfpack keep this one very close.
Free College Basketball Pick: NC State +8
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