Ohio St.-Kansas Preview

Bill Self rattles off the matchups that everyone wants to see:

Jared Sullinger against Thomas Robinson, Aaron Craft toe-to-toe

with Tyshawn Taylor, Travis Releford versus William Buford.

”I mean, there’s a lot of individual things going on,” Self

said, before making something abundantly clear: ”I look forward to

seeing Kansas play Ohio State.”

The second-ranked Buckeyes visit Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday to

face the No. 13 Jayhawks in a tasty non-conference treat. Two of

the nation’s top programs, a handful of the best players and one of

the premier venues in college basketball form the backdrop of a

March-like matchup in mid-December.

”There are a lot of things about it,” Self said. ”But when I

look at matchups, I say, `How do you guard the post? How do you

guard ball screens, more so than individuals going after each

other?’ But of course with Jared and Thomas, you have two of the

premier players in America that will be guarding each other at

least part of the time.”

That’s assuming Sullinger is healthy enough to play.

The preseason All-American has been hobbled by a bad back, and

Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said he won’t know until Saturday whether

the big guy will be available. Sullinger missed their 64-35 victory

over Texas Pan-American last Saturday, but he’s practiced a bit

this week.

”It’s amazing how much better he’s moving and all those

things,” Matta said Wednesday. ”We’ve got two more days to look

at it but don’t know for sure what he’s going to do.”

Sullinger is averaging better than 19 points and 10 rebounds per

game, and his shooting rate is about 62 percent. If he’s unable to

go, the onus of slowing down Robinson will fall to junior Evan

Ravenel, who is averaging just over 5 points per game.

”Thomas Robinson is one of the better rebounders I’ve seen,

next to Jared,” said Ravenel, a transfer from Boston College.

”Jared’s a great rebounder, probably the best I’ve ever played

with or against. Thomas Robinson is in the same (class).”

Robinson is the only player in the Big 12 averaging a

double-double, with 17.4 points and 12 rebounds per game. He’s

coming off a career-high 26 points and 11 rebounds against Long

Beach State, showing an ability to score from the perimeter along

with working hard in the post.

”We’re a different basketball team (without Jared),” Matta

said, ”but guys have to play their role. They have to do the job

that they need to do every possession.”

Self said he expects Sullinger to play, along with Taylor, his

starting point guard who has a right knee injury. Taylor came off

the bench in Tuesday’s victory over the 49ers, but he wound up

playing 34 minutes and participated fully in practice this

week.

”I hope everybody’s healthy and everybody plays and it’s an

unbelievable game where you have two terrific teams and sets of

players going after each other,” Self said.

The Jayhawks have played perhaps the toughest schedule in the

country, losing to top-ranked Kentucky at Madison Square Garden and

No. 7 Duke in the Maui Invitational championship, along with

victories over bluebloods UCLA and Georgetown and Big West favorite

Long Beach State.

The Buckeyes beat No. 12 Florida earlier this year, and a couple

weeks ago rolled to an 85-63 win over the Blue Devils, the kind of

comprehensive performance that gave Self shudders.

”They dominated the game,” Self said. ”I thought they were so

impressive on both ends, and so if we struggled with Duke and they

handled Duke that night in a pretty good fashion, I know we’re

going to have to play very, very well to put ourselves in position

to have a chance to win late.”

Ohio State leads the nation in scoring margin at nearly 30

points per game, is first in turnover margin at plus-8.8, and is

tied for the lead with Northwestern in assist-to-turnover ratio. As

if that wasn’t enough, the Buckeyes are also third nationally in

assists per game, fifth in rebounding margin at better than 10 per

game, eighth in field goal percentage and ninth in scoring

defense.

For someone who is as well-versed in statistical analysis as

Self, those numbers are enough to cause a double-take. Or maybe

even a triple-take.

Of course, the Jayhawks will have an advantage of playing at

Allen Fieldhouse.

The concourse in the venerable gym was filling with students on

Wednesday morning, camping out so that they would have prime spots

for Saturday’s game. The atmosphere is expected to approach that of

an NCAA tournament game, and Matta said it’s exactly what he hoped

for when the game was scheduled.

”In terms of that type of atmosphere affecting you,” Matta

said, ”you’ll find out a lot about your team. I’ve always said

this, you learn a lot about your players when a team hits you on a

6-0 run and you look in their eyes and is there fire in their eyes

or is there tears in their eyes. That tells you a lot about who

they are. This will be a great opportunity.”

AP Sports Writer Rusty Miller in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to

this report.