Who has the edge, N.C. State or Kansas?

No. 11 seed N.C. State vs. No. 2 seed Kansas

March 22, 2012 

When: 10:17 p.m. Friday

Where: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis

TV/Radio: TBS, WRAL-101.5

STARTERS

Tyshawn Taylor (16.9 ppg, 4.7 apg) vs. Lorenzo Brown (12.8 ppg, 6.4 apg)

This will be an interesting battle between dynamic point guards who excel at making plays for themselves. As important as anything Brown does statistically will be his ability to control the tempo of the game. Georgetown dictated the first 10 minutes of Sunday’s game, and opened a quick 10-point lead, but Brown set the pace to N.C. State’s liking for the final 30 minutes.

EDGE: Even

Travis Releford (8.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg) vs. C.J. Williams (10.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg)

Another matchup of players with similar roles: Releford (6-foot-6) and Williams (6-5) are big guards, and both have the ability to be a lockdown defender. Williams’ scoring was a big X factor for N.C. State in beating Georgetown; once again, because of Kansas’ advantage in the frontcourt, N.C. State is going to have to generate offense from the backcourt, and that puts pressure on Williams to score.

EDGE: Even

Elijah Johnson (10.0 ppg, 3.7 apg) vs. Scott Wood (12.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg)

No one on Kansas’ team has taken more 3-point attempts than Johnson, and no one on N.C. State’s roster comes close to Wood in that department. Johnson has been a dominant and consistent scorer in the postseason, averaging 18.5 points in four games and carrying Kansas offensively with 18 points against Purdue, including the deep 3-pointer that gave Kansas its first lead late in that game. Johnson, who also plays point guard, is more athletic than Wood, but N.C. State is 10-0 when Wood hits at least four 3-pointers.

EDGE: Even

Jeff Withey (9.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg) vs. C.J. Leslie (14.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg)

Size vs. quickness. At 7-foot, Withey is an imposing inside presence who blocks a lot of shots – more than three per game – and muscles out smaller players for rebounds. Leslie (6-8) has the ability to beat his man down the court and use his nimble feet to create scoring opportunities in the post. Withey isn’t a big scorer, but he was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year; Leslie has become a dominant offensive player over the past month. He will have to find a way past Withey if N.C. State is going to get scoring from the frontcourt.

EDGE: Even

Thomas Robinson (17.7 ppg, 11.8 rpg) vs. Richard Howell (11.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg)

Robinson (6-10), a legitimate national player-of-the-year candidate, is a frightening matchup for anyone, particularly a team that isn’t very big. Guarding Robinson is going to be a huge challenge for Howell (6-8), who, in addition to giving up at least 2 inches, has struggled with foul trouble. N.C. State had success going at Georgetown’s Henry Sims to get him in foul trouble, but Robinson is a far more dynamic and dangerous player at both ends of the court.

EDGE: Kansas

BENCH

Kansas’ Conner Teahan , Naadir Tharpe, Justin Wesley and Kevin Young vs. N.C. State’s Alex Johnson and DeShawn Painter

Kansas can bring two big bodies off the bench in Young and Wesley, but the Wolfpack basically is limited to Painter. Painter (6.3 ppg) can be an offensive weapon with his catch-and-shoot ability. Teahan (5.9 ppg) has the ability to provide instant offense from 3-point range; he’s third on Kansas’ team with 50 3-pointers.

EDGE: Kansas

INTANGIBLES

It won’t take long for the tens of thousands of Kansas fans who are likely to flood the Edward Jones Dome to start the eerie, moaning “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” chant. The question is whether N.C. State, which is playing as well as any team in the country, can quiet what figures to be a rowdy home crowd for the Jayhawks. But with that home-court advantage comes pressure, and Kansas has had trouble recently in games it was expected to win in the NCAA tournament. See: Virginia Commonwealth in the regional final last year and Northern Iowa in the second round two years ago, both games played in Big 12 territory.

EDGE: Even

LUKE DECOCK

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