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
”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
”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
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
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