Final Four 2012 Predictions: Deshaun Thomas Ready to Rise Up for Ohio State

Josh MartinNBA Lead WriterMarch 28, 2012

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 24:  Deshaun Thomas #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes cuts down the net after defeating the Syracuse Orange to win the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball East Regional Final at TD Garden on March 24, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Saturday's nightcap at the Final Four between Ohio State and Kansas will feature no shortage of star power, if not a better game than the Commonwealth Clash between Kentucky and Louisville.

There will be two All-Americans down low with Jared Sullinger and Thomas Robinson, two game-changing guards up top between Aaron Craft and Tyshawn Taylor and a pair of coaches, in Thad Matta and Bill Self, who've reached the pinnacle of their profession well before their 50th birthdays.

But the real difference maker in the second National Semifinal figures to come from outside of those big names, with Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas as the most likely culprit.

The former prep star from Fort Wayne, Indiana has emerged as Sullinger's second-in-command in the scoring column for the Buckeyes this season, even more so during the NCAA tournament. Thomas is averaging just under 21 points through the first four games, including a 31-point, 12-rebound outburst against Loyola (MD) and a 24-point performance against Cincinnati in the Sweet 16.

Thomas' coming-out party shouldn't come as too much of a shock to anyone, though. He was rated as a five-star prospect by during his high school days and, at 6'7 and 225 pounds, comes equipped with an NBA body and a skill set that allows him to score from just about anywhere on the floor.

While KU can (to some extent) counter Sullinger with Robinson and Jeff Withey and Craft with Taylor and Elijah Johnson, the Jayhawks wouldn't appear to have a reliable answer for a versatile and athletic forward like Thomas (or William Buford, for that matter).

It's that talent gap, led by Deshaun Thomas on the wing, that will allow the Buckeyes to dispatch the overachieving Jayhawks and move on to a battle with whichever of the two Bluegrass State powers is left standing on Monday.