Final Four 2012: Ohio State's Defense Is Key to Crushing Kansas

Eric Ball@@BigLeagueEballFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2012

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 24:  Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts after a play against the Syracuse Orange during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball East Regional Final at TD Garden on March 24, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Final Four features four powerhouse programs that all have premier big men.

Ohio State is here because of sophomore Jared Sullinger. The 6’9’’ forward is an immovable object in the paint, and he has been outstanding at drawing fouls and getting to the line. He was injured for Kansas-Ohio State Part 1, which means the result is completely meaningless.

On Saturday it’s going to be Sullinger’s defense that will beat Kansas.

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 25:  Thomas Robinson #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks drives the ball inside against John Henson #31, Harrison Barnes #40 and Reggie Bullock #35 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Midwest Regional Final at
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Jayhawks have to have national player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson play his best in order to beat the Buckeyes. Robinson (17.7 PPG, 11.9 RPG) is the catalyst for everything that Kansas does on the offensive end of the floor, as he spreads the floor for all of the shooters he has around him. If he is struggling or gets into foul trouble, Tyshawn Taylor feels the need to hoist bad shots that ultimately can destroy the flow of the offense.

There is no doubt that Sullinger vs. Robinson is going to be the best individual matchup in the Final Four. I expect Sullinger’s strength to push Robinson out of the paint and force him into more long range shots than he’s used to.

But that’s not the only important matchup.

Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith against Elijah Johnson and Taylor is a great backcourt duel.

Craft is the best on-the-ball defender in the nation. His relentlessness and intensity is something every player should take note of. He is averaging an incredibly impressive 2.5 steals per game and will be giving Taylor fits. He is one of the main reasons the Buckeyes are ranked in the top 10 in Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency rating.

The entire Buckeyes defense is very active in the lane and seems to get a ton of deflections. Kansas has yet to play a team with the defensive tenacity of the Buckeyes, and it’s going to be a tough adjustment for Bill Self’s crew to make.

Behind exceptional defense from Sullinger and Craft, the Buckeyes will land in the championship game for the first time since 2007.


Prediction: Ohio State 67, Kansas 61