KU vs. Pur­due has star power

Tough Ma­son meets bruis­ing Swani­gan

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Dave Skretta

kansas city, mo.» Two national player of the year front-run­ners, Frank Ma­son III of Kansas and Caleb Swani­gan of Pur­due, will lead their teams against each other in the Mid­west Re­gional semi­fi­nals Thurs­day night.

In many ways, they’re a mi­cro­cosm of their teams.

Ma­son is the gran­ite-tough point guard whose abil­ity to get up and down the floor in a blink has caused night­mares for the rest of the Big 12 the past four years. Swani­gan is the 6-foot-9, 250-pound bruiser whose abil­ity to dom­i­nate the post helped the Boil­er­mak­ers dom­i­nate the Big Ten.

The Jay­hawks are the essence of speed and shoot­ing, Pur­due the epit­ome of size and strength.

“There is no doubt they’re go­ing to at­tack us with that match-up,” Boil­er­mak­ers coach Matt Painter said Wed­nes­day, “and there is no doubt we’re go­ing to at­tack their match-up at the other end. And both teams are go­ing to try to pre­vent that.”

With clash­ing styles, the No. 1 seed Jay­hawks and fifth-seeded Boil­er­mak­ers prom­ise to de­liver a slob­ber-knocker when they meet at the sold-out Sprint Cen­ter, a short drive down In­ter­state 70 from the Kansas cam­pus in Lawrence.

In the other Mid­west semi­fi­nal, third­seeded Ore­gon and sen­sa­tional for­ward Dil­lon Brooks will try to end sev­enth­seeded Michi­gan’s dream post­sea­son by

No. 7 Michi­gan (26-11) vs. No. 3 Ore­gon (31-5)

Bot­tom line: Michi­gan has won seven in a row and 12 of its last 14 af­ter knock­ing out sec­ond-seeded Louisville in the sec­ond round. The Wolver­ines have been a tour­na­ment dar­ling since they es­caped tragedy dur­ing an aborted take­off on their way to the Big Ten Tour­na­ment. Ore­gon has with­stood the loss of big man Chris Boucher to a sea­son-end­ing knee in­jury in the Pac-12 semi­fi­nals to make the Sweet 16 for a sec­ond year in a row. All about Wal­ton: When Michi­gan lost at home to Ohio State in early Fe­bru­ary, coach John Beilein said the mood around the team was “lower than low.” He de­manded that ev­ery­one give just a lit­tle more ef­fort. Der­rick Wal­ton Jr. took it to heart and has car­ried the team dur­ing its run. In the last six games, he’s av­er­ag­ing 19.7 points, 7.0 as­sists and 5.2 re­bounds and shoot­ing 41.7 per­cent from be­hind the 3-point line. Go­ing for 32: The Ducks would set the school record for wins if they beat Michi­gan. Ore­gon, Kansas and Vil­lanova are the only three teams in the na­tion to have won 30 games each of the last two sea­sons. Did you know? Michi­gan is 4-0 all time against Ore­gon. The Wolver­ines won the most re­cent meet­ing 70-63 in a Thanks­giv­ing tour­na­ment in 2014. earn­ing a spot in the Elite Eight.

The Jay­hawks (30-4) have hardly been tested af­ter their stun­ning Big 12 quar­ter­fi­nal loss to TCU, a game in which top fresh­man Josh Jack­son was sus­pended for off-the-court in­ci­dents. They’ve blown out UC Davis and beat Michi­gan State by 20 to cruise into Kansas City on a hot streak.

“What makes them ef­fec­tive is they’re not just fast and skilled,” Swani­gan said. “They can shoot a high per­cent­age from three and have guys that can make plays. They’ve got play­mak­ers at four po­si­tions, so that’s what makes them hard to guard in tran­si­tion.”

Pur­due (27-7), which lost to the Wolver­ines in over­time at the Big Ten Tour­na­ment, dropped Ver­mont in the NCAA Tour­na­ment’s open­ing round be­fore hold­ing off Iowa State’s fran­tic come­back bid.

“The thing that makes us wor­ried is that we’re not as big of a team as they are,” said Jack­son, who along with Ma­son, Devonte Gra­ham and Svi Mykhail­iuk give Kansas coach Bill Self a rare four-guard lineup. “We’ve got work to do to make sure we’re ready.”

Mean­while, the Ducks (31-5) blew out Iona be­fore ral­ly­ing to beat Rhode Is­land in the tour­na­ment’s open­ing week­end, while the Wolver­ines (26-11) fol­lowed four wins in four days at the Big Ten tour­ney with nip-and-tuck wins over Ok­la­homa State and Louisville by a com­bined four points.

No. 4 Pur­due (27-4) vs. No. 1 Kansas (30-4)

Bot­tom line: Kansas ran roughshod through UC Davis and Michi­gan State to reach the Sweet 16, which will be played about 40 miles from its cam­pus in Lawrence. These Jay­hawks are a de­par­ture from coach Bill Self’s typ­i­cal teams in that they use a four-guard lineup, led by stand­out Frank Ma­son III and star fresh­man Josh Jack­son. Pur­due will counter with a whole lot of size, led by 6-foot-9, 250-pound sopho­more Caleb Swani­gan and 7-footer Isaac Haas. The Boil­er­mak­ers had a first-round tus­sle with Ver­mont be­fore fend­ing off an­other Big 12 foe, Iowa State, to reach the re­gional semi­fi­nals. Fab­u­lous fresh­men: Jack­son has sent his NBA draft stock soar­ing with two ex­em­plary games in the NCAA Tour­na­ment, likely lock­ing up a spot in the lot­tery if he de­parts af­ter this sea­son. Pur­due also has a key fresh­man in guard Carsen Ed­wards, who av­er­ages more than 10 points com­ing off the bench. Home sweet home: The Jay­hawks will have a mas­sive home-court ad­van­tage at the Sprint Cen­ter, and it has gen­er­ally paid off — they’re 34-7 in the build­ing. But their last game in Kansas City was a loss to TCU in the Big 12 quar­ter­fi­nals, when Jack­son was serv­ing a one-game sus­pen­sion.

Kansas’ Frank Ma­son III at­tempts to con­trol the ball against Michi­gan State last week in Tulsa, Okla. Ron­ald Martinez, Getty Images

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.