When No. 9 Kansas (9-1) and No. 7 Ohio State (9-1) get together on the hardwood on Saturday afternoon, both teams will be looking to prove that they are worthy of the Top 10 ranking bestowed upon them.
While Kansas prevailed the last time these two teams met—in last year’s Final Four—the two teams are evenly matched at this point in the 2012-13 season.
Both teams play stingy defense, both do a solid job of cleaning the glass and both have their sights set on a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
A loss to Ohio State isn’t going to crush the Jayhawks season—but a win is possible, and it would sure look good on Kansas’ resume when the selection committee starts handing out seeds in March.
Let’s take a look at how Kansas can wind up on the winning side of this equation.
Keep Aaron Craft Out of the Lane
Craft, Ohio State’s dynamic junior guard, is deadly once he gets into the lane, with the ability to get to the rim or dish it off to DeShaun Thomas for an easy basket.
Kansas’ guards—specifically Elijah Johnson—must get back in transition and keep Craft in front of them, forcing him to rely on his inconsistent shot to create offense.
After shooting 50 percent from the field as a sophomore, Craft is shooting less than 38 percent on the season thus far. Allowing him to penetrate and get easy baskets is a surefire way to wind up on the losing end.
Create Space For Ben McLemore
Kansas’ freshman wing has exploded on to the scene, shooting nearly 50 percent from the field while averaging just less than 16 points and six rebounds per game.
Not only is he deadly in transition, exploding to the rim and finishing strong, but McLemore is just as dangerous from behind the arc. Over his last four games, McLemore is shooting 54 percent from three-point range (11-for-18), and while he can create space on his own, Kansas must continue to use ball screens and reversals to get him open looks at the basket.
Harass Deshaun Thomas at Both Ends of the Floor
Thomas is one of the great scorers in the nation, averaging 20.4 points per game on 46 percent shooting from the field, including 41 percent from behind the arc.
But for as explosive of an offensive threat as he is, Thomas isn’t a big fan of playing defense.
Kansas must run straight at him, forcing him to expend energy on defense and, with any luck, pick up more than the 1.4 personal fouls than he is averaging this season.
When Thomas has the ball, Kansas must get a hand in his face, contesting every shot and making him take more shots than he normally would to pick up his usual scoring output.