The Ohio State Buckeyes are a matchup nightmare for the Kansas Jayhawks. Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas will be the undoing of Thomas Robinson and Co. in their Final Four matchup.
Kansas has had its struggles in this NCAA tournament as early as the first weekend. They put all of the talk to rest in beating North Carolina by double-digits on Sunday. Nevertheless, Ohio State will prove Kansas’s triumph was fluky with a combination of their top-10 offensive and defensive efficiency.
Here are three reasons why Kansas’ run will end early in New Orleans.
Ohio State Did Not Have Sullinger in their First Matchup
In Kansas’ December win over the Buckeyes at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks frontcourt had one of their most impressive showings of the season. Thomas Robinson posted a 21-point, 7-rebound night, just another day at the office. Seldom-used forward, Kevin Young, put his inside-out game on display, scoring 14 points on six of eight shooting.
Kansas, though, had everything to gain that day. Sullinger, a National Player of the Year candidate, was in street clothes with a back injury. In the Final Four’s primetime matchup, the Jayhawks will not get déjà vu. Sully’ is as healthy and ready as ever in his first Final Four appearance.
Both Kansas’ Robinson and Withey will have their hands full on the defensive end trying to contain Sullinger’s methodical post move set. In addition, the Ohio State forward is an underrated defender, averaging one steal and one block this year. His post presence on both ends renders Kansas’ inside scoring and rebounding impact less significant.
Tyshawn Taylor, Meet Aaron Craft
Taylor has been one of this tournament’s biggest enigmas. He answered the bell following his dynamic performance in the Elite Eight against North Carolina. Kansas fans are waiting for an encore from the fiery senior guard.
Against the Buckeyes, though, don’t expect the announcers to be calling his name for stellar play. Not being defended by Aaron Craft, anyway.
If there was awarded an NCAA All-Defensive Team, Craft would surely be on it. His on-ball defense has been popularized well throughout the college ranks. He’ll be licking his chops at the sight of Taylor and his 1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio.
On the offensive end, Craft has been one of the more efficient players on his team. He currently sports the highest true shooting percentage of all Buckeye guards and had contributed to over seven win shares this season while only averaging around ten points.
In order for Kansas to earn a spot in the National Championship game, Tyshawn Taylor will have to be the best guard on the floor. Going against a quality defender in Craft, I don’t see it in the cards.
Deshaun Thomas Will Expose Kansas’ Lack of Depth
Kansas has no answer for Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas. The Jayhawks will have to match him up with multiple defenders, which will stretch Bill Self’s team too thin.
Thomas has turned into quite a load since tournament play unfolded. He has been OSU’s wild card to their success recently, eclipsing Sullinger in player efficiency and total win shares the last two weeks. Thad Matta has been riding Thomas’ hot streak, in which he's averaging 21 points, 7.5 rebounds in a whopping 38 minutes a game.
Will Robinson have to guard Thomas? That will leave Jeff Withey on Sullinger, who is truly OSU’s most consistent and dynamic threat. Withey can make life difficult for Ohio State’s star, but Sullinger has been getting his numbers against bigger defenders his entire college career.
Kansas Head Coach Bill Self has been limiting Withey to 25 minutes a game to keep him fresh. Kansas would be better served matching Robinson up with Sullinger to try to disrupt him with his athleticism.
Kansas does not have many NBA-level bodies on their roster to check both Thomas and Sullinger the entire 40 minutes. They will be outflanked all game if they don’t come in with a unique defensive game plan.
The Jayhawks will have to hope Travis Releford can be a serviceable defender against the dynamic Thomas. The options seem bleak for Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk.