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Sweet 16 Preview Southwest Regional - (12) Richmond vs. (1) Kansas

Friday, 7:27 PM ET

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On one hand, the temptation to label the NCAA Tournament Southwest Regional as “the Kansas Invitational” is powerful. Then again, the Kansas Jayhawks have failed so many times before that they can’t be given a free pass to the 2011 Final Four.

The upstart Richmond Spiders face college basketball blueblood Kansas in a Southwest Region Sweet 16 contest at the Alamadome in San Antonio, Texas, on Friday March 25.  The Spiders, winners of nine straight games and 13 of their last 14, upset fifth-seeded Vanderbilt 69-66 in the first round of the tournament and beat 13th-seeded Morehead State 65-48 in the Round of 32 to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1988.

Richmond’s pluck is unmistakable, but will it be enough against the Jayhawks? Remember, this is a Kansas team that wants to wipe away the memory of getting stunned by a huge underdog one year ago, as KU fell to Northern Iowa thanks to a late three-point jumper by March Madness hero Ali Farokhmanesh. The Jayhawks won’t face a team seeded higher than 10th this weekend, but that doesn’t mean they’re in the clear. Not by a longshot.

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Senior guard Kevin Anderson, the 2010 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, has been the Spiders go-to player in the Big Dance.  Anderson scored 25 points in the victory over Vanderbilt and followed that up by dropping 14 points on Morehead State.  Anderson combines with fellow senior and First-Team All-Atlantic 10 selection Justin Harper to give the Spiders one of the more formidable inside-outside tandems in college basketball.  Richmond Coach Chris Mooney will hope the matchup zone defense his team typically deploys is able to stifle the powerful Kansas offense.  While Vanderbilt shot 50-percent from the floor, Richmond held Morehead State to 38-percent shooting (18-of-48) from the field in its second round win.

The Jayhawks advanced to the Sweet 16 with relative ease; dispatching 16th-seeded Boston University 72-53 in the first round, and beating ninth-seeded Kansas 73-59 in the Round of 32.  The win over Illinois has helped Coach Bill Self’s team and the Jayhawks faithful put the sting of last year’s second round exit from the Big Dance behind them.  The Jayhawks have been led by twin brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris, who combined for 31 points in the win over Boston University and 41 points and 24 rebounds in the second round victory over Illinois.  Kansas, which has won ten straight games, seems to be peaking at the right time: The Jayhawks have won their last four games by average margin of 15.5 points.  

The teams have never met in the NCAA Tournament.  Richmond won the last meeting between the two teams, 69-68, in January 2004.  

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer
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