Published on March 31st, 2012 | by Bryant West, Columnist0
Final Four Breakdown: Ohio State vs. Kansas
Who: #2 Ohio State vs. #2 Kansas
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, La.
When: Saturday, March 31st, 8:49 p.m. Eastern, 5:49 p.m. Pacific
Projected Starting Lineups:
For Ohio State -
Jared Sullinger (17.6 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 53.1% FG, 76.8% FT, 42.1% 3P)
Deshaun Thomas (16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 53.0% FG, 74.3% FT, 35.5% 3P)
William Buford (14.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 41.5% FG, 82.6% FT, 35.1% 3P)
Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (6.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, 47.5% FG, 60.9% FT, 37.7% 3P)
Aaron Craft (8.8 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.3 RPG, 2.5 SPG, 50.7% FG, 71.1% FT, 34.4% 3P)
For Kansas -
Jeff Withey (9.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.5 BPG, 54.8% FG, 79.4% FT)
Thomas Robinson (17.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, .9 BPG, 51.2% FG, 68.1% FT)
Elijah Johnson (10.0 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 42.5% FG, 69.6% FT, 33.5% 3P)
Travis Releford (8.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 50% FG, 64.3% FT, 31.2% 3P)
Tyshawn Taylor (16.7 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.3 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 3.5 TPG, 48.2% FG, 68.2% FT, 38.5% 3P)
All of the attention in today’s Final Four is on the first game, the big rivalry matchup between Kentucky and Louisville. I’ve already gone on record as saying I don’t think it’s going to live up to the hype (Kentucky will win and quite easily). But I’m also going to go on record as saying Ohio State v. Kansas is going to be a much more memorable game in ten years for anyone not living in Kentucky.
Thomas Robinson verses Jared Sullinger. Deshaun Thomas verses Jeff Withey. Tyshawn Taylors verses Aaron Craft. Yes, yes, these teams aren’t eternal rivals seperated by just 60 miles, but on paper? Better matchup by FAR.
By the way, if you don’t know which team to cheer for and you don’t live in Ohio or Kansas, check out this piece by BTGIOSN’s founder Mark Travis on Thomas Robinson. Even if you’re a Buckeye’s superfan, you can’t help but cheer for Robinson.
Hit the jump for the rest of Bryant’s preview…
Matchup to Watch For: Jared Sullinger vs. Thomas Robinson
I could have picked any one of those perviously mentioned matchups, but I’m going for the two NBA Lottery bound big men.
Their stats are very similar (17.6/9.1 for Sullinger, 17.7/11.8 for Robinson) and they’re two of the most talented low post scorers in the business. Sullinger has an advantage in size, Robinson the advantage in athleticism. Sullinger has a more refined post game, Robinson is much more explosive.
But if I had to go to war with one of them, I’d take Robinson in a heartbeat no-questions-asked.
Side note – Robinson is, and deserves to be, a top 4 selection AT LEAST in the 2012 NBA Draft. If he’s available past four, it’ll be an absolute stunner. But Sullinger? I can see him falling out of the lottery. Steve Kerr doesn’t – he says Robinson is the second overall pick, after Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, of course. But he also says that Sullinger then is the THIRD overall pick. Over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? Over Andre Drummond, Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal? Sullinger is a great NCAA player, and he’ll be a good NBA player, but he’s not even close to worth a top 3 pick.
Keys for Ohio State:
1. Deshaun Thomas: Thomas has been the Buckeye’s best player in the tournament, averaging 21.8 points and 8.5 rebounds on 52.2 percent from the floor. He’ll be going up against Robinson and Witney, both exceptionally good defenders, but he’ll need to score and score efficiently.
2. William Buford: The X factor for the Buckeyes offensively, Buford is shooting just 29% from the field so far in the tournament. He’ll be covered by Elijah Johnson, a good defender, but with Sullinger and Thomas both covered by above-average defenders Buford will have to create his shot and take some of the pressure off his boys in the middle.
3. Let Taylor Beat Himself: Aaron Craft is the leagues best guard defender, and he’ll have the advantage against TyShawn Taylor. When Taylor is hot, he’ll win just about any game, but he’s so volatile that he could just shoot the Jayhawks out of this. Craft averages 2.5 steals per game, and he’ll cause havoc for Taylor, especially if Taylor starts to think he’s got to do it himself.
Keys for Kansas:
1. Make your Free Throws: Take a look at Kansas’ starting line’s percentages from the free throw line. Their best free throw shooter is their CENTER (Jeff Withey, at a very nice 79.4%). The rest of their starters are all below 69.2% – that’s a bit sad. In their last three games, all wins of course, they’re 65.7% from the field. If this game is close (and I bet it will) they’ll need to sink their free throws late.
2. Jeff Withey: Anthony Davis averages the most blocks in the nation (4.6 a game) but Withey leagues the league in block rate (15.14 percent, while Davis is at 13.95). Against a big, tough interior team like Ohio State, he’ll need to be at the top of his game, and ready to guard both of the Buckeyes bigs at times.
3. Win the Entire Game, not just the End: Kansas pulled it off late against 10th seeded Purdue in the third round. In the Sweet Sixteen, they squeaked by North Carolina State in the final minute. In both contests, they looked very, very beatable until the final moments.
Against North Carolina, they played the Tar Heels even until – you guessed it – a run in the final minutes. Ohio State is too good for the Jayhawks to expect that can win in the clutch. They need to avoid this habit and get out ahead early.
Prediction: I’ve said Kansas would make the Title game from the start, and I’m sticking with it. In a head to head matchup, you have to give the nod to quite a few Buckeyes (Craft over Taylor, Thomas over Withey) but in the biggest one of all, I’d rather put money on Robinson than Sullinger. Through their star big man, Kansas will win this game.
Kansas 67, Ohio State 63