Ohio State vs. Kansas Is the 2012 Final Four Matchup to Get Excited About

Tucker PaineContributor IMarch 29, 2012

Ohio State guard William Buford and Kansas guard Travis Releford scramble for a ball in the teams' first meeting
Ohio State guard William Buford and Kansas guard Travis Releford scramble for a ball in the teams' first meetingJamie Squire/Getty Images

Most members of the media and the mainstream population of fans are hyping up the Bluegrass State Showdown that will occur in the first of the two national semifinals.

What most of those people are missing is the fact that despite the intriguing storyline, the Ohio State vs. Kansas game will actually be the better game of the night.

The first matchup between Kentucky and Louisville will be highlighted by the extraordinarily talented Kentucky team with several lottery picks, going up against an underdog pick to get to the championship game.

Kentucky should blow Louisville out of the water—as they have everyone else they've played in this tournament—recording easy double digit victories in all four of their matchups.

The game between Ohio State and Kansas should be totally different. Ohio State has played some very tight matchups so far in the tournament and defeated Syracuse in the Elite Eight to get to this point.

Kansas is coming off three straight nail biters against Purdue, NC State, and North Carolina. Neither of these teams has been dominant in the tournament thus far, and that points to a close, exciting matchup in the Final Four.

"We're excited to play against them," Kansas center Jeff Withey said, via the KU Athletics website. "We got to see them earlier in the year without Jared Sullinger. We are familiar with them, so I think it will be a good match up. They have a really good front court, but so do we. It will be a fun game."

This game will feature what could be the best individual matchup of the season between two-time First Team All American Jared Sullinger of Ohio State, and National Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson from Kansas.

Both of these players are exciting, versatile big men that have a huge impact on their games. Without Thomas Robinson and Jared Sullinger, neither team would be close to as good as they are today.

"I'm excited," said Robinson. "But at the same time it doesn't matter who I'm going against because it's the Final Four. I don't care if it's a sixth grader."

Kansas defeated Ohio State 78-67 in December at Allen Fieldhouse, but this result is not an indication of how the game will go in the Final Four. This is because Jared Sullinger of Ohio State did not play because of back spasms—Sullinger is the team's superstar—so, the Buckeyes should have a little more success down low than they did in December.

"They gave us a loss this year, so we're going to be excited to play," Ohio State sophomore point guard Aaron Craft said, via ohiostate.247sports.com. "They're a much better team than when we played, and I think we're a better team than when we played as well."

Ohio State will be better than they were in December because Sullinger will be playing for them, but Kansas is an entirely different team too. The Jayhawks center Jeff Withey made a strong emergence during Big 12 Conference play and had 10 blocks in their Sweet Sixteen game against NC State, just one shy of the NCAA Tournament record.

With the addition of the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year in Withey, and the newfound confidence spurred by Kansas' success in the NCAA Tournament, Kansas has improved by leaps and bounds from the young, inexperienced team they were in early December.

According to Kansas senior guard Tyshawn Taylor:

The circumstances are completely different.This might as well be a whole new year since the last time we played them. Jared (Sullinger) didn't play which is the biggest thing. I feel like our team was still kind of in the process of getting good. I'm sure at the same time they were in that same process."

When I look at the individual matchups, one thing becomes very clear to me: William Buford will decide this game. The streaky shooter will need to knock down his shots against Kansas' man-to-man defense, and if he does, the Buckeyes will win the game.

If Kansas plays the kind of defense they did in the second half of their Elite Eight matchup with UNC, Buford will have a lot of trouble scoring for the Buckeyes and the Jayhawks will win this game.

Either way it turns out, this game will almost surely be the game of the tournament. It will feature the best individual matchup of the tourney between Sullinger and Robinson and will also feature fantastic guard play and a lot of scoring.

That should turn this into an instant classic that will go down in history as one of the best games in a long time.