Marquette vs. Kansas

April 05, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht

Tonight's first game

What: NCAA tournament semifinal.

Site: Superdome, New Orleans.

Time: 6:07.

TV: Chs. 13, 9.

Line: Kansas by 4 1/2 .

The teams

Kansas: No. 2 seed, 29-7; won West Regional by beating No. 3 seed Duke, 69-65, in the semifinals and No. 1 seed Arizona, 78-75, in the title game; 32nd NCAA tournament appearance.

Marquette: No. 3 seed, 27-5; won Midwest Regional by beating No. 4 seed Pitt, 77-74, and No. 1 seed Kentucky, 83-69, in the title game; 23rd NCAA tournament appearance.

Backcourts

Kansas: Senior Kirk Hinrich, the West Regional MVP, is coming off a 28-point effort in last week's Arizona victory, is the Jayhawks' top backcourt scorer and a key to their patented fast break. Sophomore point guard Aaron Miles is among the team's more improved players, having led the Big 12 with 6.5 assists per game. Sophomore swingman Keith Langford is averaging 16.8 ppg in the NCAAs and is a huge key tonight, especially in his defensive assignment on Dwyane Wade.

Marquette: Junior guard Dwyane Wade might be the best player left in the tournament, with enough bulk at 6 feet 5 to post up and bully his way to the basket, enough quickness to break down a defense from the wing, and enough touch to make clutch shots. He rebounds as well as any guard in America, is an excellent passer, and is coming off a triple double against Kentucky. Sophomore point guard Travis Diener has committed just four turnovers in the NCAA tournament while averaging 36 minutes. He also showed he can score by recording 55 points in the opening two rounds for Marquette.

Edge: Marquette.

Frontcourts

Kansas: Senior Nick Collison is the Jayhawks' leading scorer (18.6) and rebounder (9.6), and he runs the floor as well as any big man in the game. His 33-point, 19-rebound effort against Duke was one of the top performances in the tournament. Junior forward Jeff Graves has done an admirable job replacing the injured Wayne Simien. In his past 20 games, Graves has averaged 7.9 points and 8.2 rebounds.

Marquette: Forward Robert Jackson does not get Collison-like publicity across the nation, but he might after this weekend. At 6-9, 255 pounds, Jackson is a 24-year-old, fifth-year senior who sat out a year after transferring from Mississippi State and has been the Golden Eagles' rock in the post. He averages 15.4 points and 7.5 rebounds and is coming off a 24-point, 15-rebound show against Kentucky. Scott Merritt averages 10 points and 6.5 rebounds and is strong on the offensive glass.

Edge: Kansas.

Benches

Kansas: This is where the Jayhawks are highly vulnerable. Losing Simien to a shoulder injury after 16 games could have been a fatal blow to the Jayhawks, but Graves came off the bench to take his minutes and has been effective. That has left Kansas low in reserve strength. Guard Michael Lee averages 4.7 points on 51 percent shooting in 15.7 minutes. Forward Bryant Nash averages 3.0 points and 2.4 rebounds in 12 average minutes of playing time.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles have the game's best example of instant offense in 6-9 forward Steve Novak, who is averaging 6.8 points in 15.4 minutes and is a 52.4 percent three-point shooter. Guard Karon Bradley usually plays fewer than 10 minutes, but is making his shots count these days. He is 4-for-4 from three-point range in Marquette's past three games.

Edge: Marquette.

Coaches

Kansas: Roy Williams has left quite a mark in Lawrence, Kan., even though he has never won a national championship. Williams has taken the Jayhawks to their fourth Final Four, 14 straight NCAA tournaments in his 15 seasons, and has a record of 417-100 (.807).

Marquette: Tom Crean needed just four seasons in Milwaukee to make Golden Eagles' fans believe the golden era of Al McGuire could happen again. His second NCAA tournament trip has Marquette in position to win its first NCAA crown in 26 years.

Edge: Kansas.

Keys to victory

Kansas: The Jayhawks rely heavily on their fast break, which means Collison and Graves must rebound on the defensive end and their defense must force turnovers by Diener to get the transition game rolling. Langford, with some help, must keep Wade from taking over the game. And Hinrich, not the most consistent scorer, probably needs to contribute at least 20 points. Kansas must keep Wade from controlling the boards in key situations.

Marquette: Limit turnovers against Kansas' defensive pressure, starting with Diener, who has handled the ball exceptionally well in the postseason. Jackson should present problems for Collison, especially in a half-court game, where Jackson's bulk and toughness could be decisive. The only thing that will keep Wade from contributing in a major way is foul trouble.

Bottom line

With its short-handed bench, Kansas has done a fine job getting this far. It helps to have a floor runner like Collison controlling the lane and a steady scorer in Hinrich. They are the most experienced tandem left in the tournament. But Jackson should be an equalizer in the paint, and the Jayhawks will have problems countering the hottest backcourt in New Orleans. A week after he dismantled Kentucky, it's hard not to envision Wade doing whatever it takes to drag the Golden Eagles into Monday's championship.

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