Balance Is Key?
North Carolina State doesn't run the unconventional four- and sometimes five-guard lineup like Purdue, but the Wolfpack have five players averaging double digits.
"NC State has balance and balance is the hardest thing to guard," Bill Self said before his team's practice at the Edwards Jones Dome in St. Louis Thursday. "You try to take certain things away but most importantly, everybody is a threat."
Each Wolfpack starter has led the team in scoring at least once this year, led by sophomore forward C.J Leslie who's been the top scorer 14 times with a season-high 24-point performance against North Carolina on Feb. 21.
The NCAA tournament is a whole different animal than the regular season with heightened media attention, more scrutiny from fans and more distractions. The biggest distraction in March?
"Our family," junior guard Travis Releford said. "They're worried about tickets and telling us to do things that we haven't been doing throughout the season." He added, "Maybe them and our friends. We keep them out of the way and stay in our circle with our team and our coaches and just do what we've been doing to get here."
Releford added that coach Self doesn't change anything this time of year, but Self did admit to altering a few things.
"This is a time when you need to love them, to be honest," Self said, joking that he might be perceived as soft but staying upbeat is a big factor in the NCAA Tournament.
Will Elijah Johnson Keep It Up?
He averaged just 9.6 points per game this season, but the junior guard has had at least 15 points in each of his last four games, including a 26-point performance against Texas A&M in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals.
"He's on a pretty good run," Self said Thursday. "I've been telling Elijah that for the last four months. He's good, he just had to realize he's good."
Self added that while Johnson has been a great facilitator, there are times when he needs to step up offensively and the last handful of games, he's done just that.
Tough Scheduling Paying Off
The Jayhawks played one of the nation's toughest non-conference schedules this season. It was highlighted with games against Georgetown, Duke, Kentucky and Ohio State. The championship of the Maui Invitational ended in a 68-61 loss to Duke.
"In the beginning of the season we got put in tough situations," Robinson said Friday when asked about the close victory over Purdue last Sunday. "Against Duke, we didn't close that game as we should have and we learned from that early. Games like that, when you're playing big games and you don't finish, it's heartbreaking. It's definitely something you don't want to do again."