Austin Peay's six-game win streak has catapulted the Governors into the national spot light and into a showdown with top-ranked Kansas. On February 25th the Governors owned a record of 12 and 17 and were just hoping to qualify for the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
By winning its last two regular season games APSU qualified for Music City Madness and made the best of its opportunity. The Governors accumulated four upset wins in four days to claim the OVC tournament title and the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Governors' run has been national news as Head Coach Dave Loos' granddaughter Rhyan is battling cancer. The six-year-old daughter of Missouri assistant coach Brad Loos had a tumor removed the day the conference tournament began. The Governor's wore warm up shirts with #Rally4Rhyan across the back and were playing for their coach and for his courageous granddaughter.
Now the proverbial ‘David' battles a Goliath in the University of Kansas. The Jayhawks are the top ranked team in all of college basketball. They own the best RPI and have ranked in the top five in that department for the past six years.
Is Kansas unbeatable? Bill Self's team is 30-4. The Jayhawks have won the Big 12 regular season title for the 12th straight year and have won their last 14 games. They are a deep and veteran squad.
David's aim with that sling shot better be good.
Austin Peay's emotional and statistical leader is 6-8 senior Chris Horton. Despite being undersized for a center, Horton collected 24 double-doubles (fourth in the nation) and led the OVC in scoring (18.9) and rebounds (12.0) including a nation leading 4.94 offensive rebounds per game.
While Kansas is great, it is not a center-oriented team. They are not huge in the middle and that gives Horton a chance to continue to do damage in the paint, while guards Josh Robinson and Jared Savage try to attack from the perimeter. Robinson has he ability to score in bunches. Five times he has hit for 25 or more points.
Savage has just recently been elevated to the starting line up and in the final three games of the OVC Tournament, he scored 13, 21 and 24 points. They have their work cut out for them.
Kansas averages 82 points per game and allow 68, but it's the shooting percentages that stand out. K-U makes over 49% of their shots and over 42% from beyond the arc. Perry Ellis leads the way in scoring and at 6-8 is also the Jayhawks leading rebounder. But it is guard play where I believe the Jayhawks have too much manpower for the Governors.
Robinson and Savage will have their moments, but Bill Self's guards, Frank Mason III, Wayne Selden JR and Devonte Graham all average double figures, and Kansas' top five scorers all make over 40% of their shots from long distance.
The athleticism and skill of the Jayhawks against the momentum passion of the Governors. I'd love to pick the ‘little engine that could,' but I believe the top-ranked team will move on. Call it Kansas 79 and Austin Peay 64.