Final Four Schedule 2012: Ohio State and Kansas Set for Saturday's Best Matchup
The plains of the Bluegrass State are already ablaze with excitement over Saturday's monumental Final Four meeting between arch-rivals Kentucky and Louisville in New Orleans.
And while there's plenty of intrigue to go around—between the meeting of coaching minds (John Calipari and Rick Pitino), the clash of basketball traditions and Goliath going up against also-Goliath—the best game of the weekend may well be the nightcap to follow, between Kansas and Ohio State.
And not just because Big Blue is bound to beat the stuffing out of the undersized and overmatched Cardinals.
The real appeal of this weekend's second national semifinal lies in the dueling big-little combinations between the Jayhawks and the Buckeyes. All eyes will be firmly affixed to the post, where Thomas Robinson and Jared Sullinger will go toe-to-toe in a matchup of first-team All-Americans.
Despite being the older of the two, Robinson comes in as an underdog of sorts, a physical specimen known more for his athleticism and his ability to bowl people over than for any particularly well-refined skills.
That being said, the 6'10", 237-pounder is no slouch, not after overcoming tremendous personal tragedy to rise from a sophomore to the first unanimous All-American since Oklahoma's Blake Griffin in 2009.
Sullinger, on the other hand, is a two-time All-American who makes up for his lack of athleticism or an above-the-rim game by throwing around his 6'9", 265-pound frame under the basket and knocking down jumpers from 20 feet away. The Buckeyes sophomore may be a poor man's Kevin Love, though he's hardly impoverished when it comes to meeting (if not exceeding) expectations on the court.
After all, he's the only preseason All-American who was able to parlay that distinction into a spot on the AP's postseason squad.
While Robinson and Sullinger are battling on the block, Tyshawn Taylor and Aaron Craft will be busy getting after each other in the backcourt. Taylor was terrific against North Carolina in the Elite Eight, but has struggled with inconsistency throughout his four years in Lawrence, though not for a lack of effort.
He figures to be flustered by Craft, who's arguably the best perimeter defender in all of college hoops.
The difference in the game, though, may well come down to the contributions from the rest of the rosters. Bill Self's squad is noticeably thin outside of T-Rob and Tyshawn, though Jeff Withey, Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson have proven themselves to be more-than-capable contributors in the Big Dance.
Which team will advance to the final?
Ohio State, on the other hand, boasts a pair of big-time scorers on the wing in Deshaun Thomas and William Buford, who've combined to average 30.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists this season. Those two might just be too difficult for the Jayhawks to contain, even with Withey's size and length in the paint.
As such, the Buckeyes will enter the weekend with no worse than a slight edge to advance to the title game. They lost at Kansas back in December, 78-67, but will have the benefit of a healthy Sullinger this time around, on top of the added motivation of rectifying a previous result.
Still, there's no use discounting the Jayhawks given the outstanding job Bill Self's done in getting his team this far. Expect a hard-fought, grind-it-out game between these two.
And a more appealing result than whatever Louisville and UK will have in store for earlier in the day.
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