NBA Prospects to Watch in Ohio State-Kansas Game of the Week
It was only around eight months ago that Kansas took down Ohio State in the Final Four, and now the two meet sharing 9-1 records.
Despite key pieces from last year's matchup (Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor, Jared Sullinger and William Buford) aging out or at the next level, this weekend's game still showcases some attractive NBA prospects.
Matchup of the Game: Kansas' Ben McLemore vs. Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas
Ben McLemore has emerged as one of the elite NBA prospects in all of college basketball, and will go head-to-head with Deshaun Thomas in a battle for most potent perimeter scorer in this game.
McLemore enters the weekend hitting 11 of his last 18 three-point attempts. His ability to stretch the defense, while at the same time keeping them honest, has made him a multidimensional offensive threat.
He's averaging 15.9 points, and will be counted on to out-duel Deshaun Thomas, whose 20.4 points per game could come in bunches and sink a team if the timing is right.
Thomas has stepped up his perimeter game, shooting 40 percent from downtown after an average of 34 percent last year. He's certainly not afraid to put them up, which could mean bad news or good news on a game-to-game basis.
Many have wondered why Thomas isn't considered a projected first-rounder, and it has to do with his lack of defensive lateral quickness and underwhelming explosiveness off the dribble.
But in this game, details like that won't be relevant.
Each team will need their top perimeter scorers to be locked in for this matchup between two Top 10 programs.
Prospects to Watch
Jeff Withey, Kansas- 7'0'', C
14 PPG, 8 RPG, 5.4 BLG, 59 percent FG
Jeff Withey has emerged as a legitimate scoring weapon, and one Ohio State will have to monitor every minute he's on the floor.
Kansas has been deliberately getting him the ball in the post, where he's been scoring over both shoulders, off-setting a lack of athleticism with unpredictability.
Ohio State will have to rely heavily on sophomore Amir Williams to defend the post, the only member of the Buckeyes rotation over 6'8''.
Withey gives Kansas a substantial advantage inside on both sides of the ball, which could end up being the difference in an otherwise evenly matched contest.
Aaron Craft, Ohio State- 6'2'' PG
9.1 PPG, 4.8 APG
The Big Ten's most pestering perimeter defender, Aaron Craft's leadership and intensity go undocumented on the box scores, but those qualities are what keeps the Buckeyes' engine running.
Craft won't take over games or create his own offense, but that's not what his role is now or in the future.
He's one of the better game-managers in the country, and though his NBA tools are lacking, his motor and instincts are glowing. Expect Kansas' Elijah Johnson to see a lot of Craft on the perimeter, whose primary responsibilities will be to harass on defense and facilitate on offense.
Elijah Johnson, Kansas- 6'3'' PG
9.9 PPG, 5.3 APG
Elijah has taken a backseat as a scorer, but took control of the wheel as the team's primary ball-handler and orchestrator.
Against Ohio State, Kansas will need Johnson to do a little bit of both. He's got to be more aggressive attacking the rim, where he only averages 1.3 free-throw attempts per game despite his top-shelf athleticism and explosiveness.
He's losing steam as a prospect without any standout qualities and minimal gradual improvement, but he's talented enough to go off in any given game.
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