The final Elite 8 game has been played, and the 2012 Final Four is set.
Kentucky is facing Louisville in one Final Four matchup, an epic meeting of arch-rivals with the stakes at an all-time high. In the other Final Four game, Ohio State and Thad Matta with be facing Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks.
Kansas-Ohio State Final 4 Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #2 Kansas (Midwest) v #2 Ohio State (East)
- Kansas-Ohio State Final 4 Date: Saturday, March 31st
- Kansas-Ohio State Final 4 Tip Time: 8:49 ET
- Kansas-Ohio State Final 4 Location: The Superdome in New Orleans
- Kansas-Ohio State Final 4 TV: CBS
- Kansas-Ohio State Final 4 Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg, and Steve Kerr
- Kansas-Ohio State Final 4 Point Spread: TBA
- Vivid Seats: Final Four Tickets
Kansas-Ohio State Final 4 Analysis and Prediction
It looks like the Final Four will feature a pair of rematches with Kentucky versus Louisville on one side and Kansas and Ohio State on the other.
The Buckeyes advanced to New Orleans with a seven-point win over Syracuse in the East Regional Final. Jared Sullinger led four Ohio State players in double figures, including Lenzelle Smith, Jr., who scored 18 points, many of which came at key junctures in the game.
The Jayhawks ratcheted up the defense and held North Carolina to just 20 second half points in KU’s 13-point win on Sunday. Tyshawn Taylor scored 22 points to lead five Jayhawks in double figures.
Kansas-Ohio State By The Numbers
In the December 10th meeting between these two squads, Kansas beat Ohio State by 11 points, but the Buckeyes were playing without Jared Sullinger, who missed the game with a back injury. Thomas Robinson led the Jayhawks with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Tyshawn Taylor dished out 13 assists. Kansas shot 58.3 percent from the field and made 9-of-17 from deep. For Ohio State, William Buford and Deshaun Thomas combined for 40 points, but the Buckeyes shot poorly from beyond the arc and turned the ball over 15 times.
With Sullinger in the Ohio State lineup, this should be a fantastic matchup, as both teams rank in the Top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
The battle inside between Sullinger and the combination of Robinson and Jeff Withey will be critical on both ends. Thanks to Withey’s shot-blocking prowess, the Jayhawks boast the top two-point defense in the country, but they will be tested against an Ohio State squad that makes over 53 percent inside the arc. Bill Self did a great job managing Withey’s foul trouble against North Carolina, but it’s clearly not a situation he wants to find himself in again. Similarly, the Buckeyes were forced to sit Sullinger in the first half against Syracuse due to foul issues, and in a tournament where the officials have been anything but invisible, foul trouble is a definite possibility.
The frontcourt battle will also play out on the glass. The Buckeyes grab over 36 percent of their misses for the season, which ranks 34th in the country. However, the Jayhawks have been tough on the defensive glass, with Robinson the proud owner of the nation’s top defensive rebounding percentage. Ohio State needs solid contributions on the glass from Sullinger, Thomas, and even Evan Ravenel.
Thanks in large part to Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes have a low turnover rate on offense, and since the Jayhawks don’t force miscues at a high rate, don’t look for many when OSU has the ball. In terms of free throw rate, the Buckeyes rank outside the Top 100, and the Jayhawks are in the same position defensively. Again, based on the officiating, you can’t rule out free throws as a huge factor in this game, but the numbers certainly suggest otherwise.
It’s also worth noting that the Buckeyes have struggled with their three-point shooting for most of the season, although Lenzelle Smith, Jr. has hit some clutch ones in the tournament. William Buford certainly has the capacity to get hot from long range, but he hasn’t looked too confident in the Big Dance.
When Kansas has the ball, the key factors are largely the same. The Jayhawks boast terrific two-point shooting, while the Buckeyes rank just outside of the Top 60 in two-point defense. Kansas has a solid offensive rebounding percentage, which sets up a number of easy shots on putbacks or other shots in the lane. However, OSU ranks second in defensive rebounding percentage, which will limit KU’s second chance opportunities.
Another key statistic to watch is free throw rate. The Jayhawks get to the line with regularity and have posted a free throw rate over 40 this season, but Ohio State has held its opponents to a sub-30 FTR. Obviously something has to give here. While the Buckeyes have gotten some key minutes from their bench players in the tournament, overall depth and bench scoring have been issues for OSU this year. If Kansas starts drawing a lot of fouls, I really like its chances to win the game.
Kansas-Ohio State Prediction
Turnovers have been an issue for the Jayhawks at times this season, and Tyshawn Taylor had seven in the first meeting. Aaron Craft’s on-ball defense has been incredibly disruptive throughout the tournament, and he’ll definitely make it challenging for Taylor and Elijah Johnson to initiate the offense.
The interior matchups are sure to get most of the headlines and rightfully so. The key may be Deshaun Thomas. His ability to step out and play on the perimeter will challenge Robinson or Withey defensively, but he could also struggle to defend those guys in the post. His play on both ends of the floor will go a long way towards determining the outcome of this one.
I’m also intrigued by Elijah Johnson and William Buford in the backcourt. Johnson has given the Jayhawks a shot in the arm throughout the tournament, scoring in double figures in all four games and making a number of key plays in the come-from-behind win against Purdue. Meanwhile, Buford has struggled. In the last three games, he’s just 8-of-33 from the field and 4-of-14 from beyond the arc. Against a tough Kansas team, I’m not sure the Buckeyes can survive another similar performance from their senior guard.
Finally, the supporting casts will be huge. Both teams rely a lot on a few key players, but both have also seen other players step up in the tournament. Kansas got 11 points from Travis Releford and eight rebounds from Kevin Young against North Carolina, while Lenzelle Smith, Jr. has scored 33 points over the last two games for Ohio State. The Buckeyes also got four rebounds and two blocks from Amir Williams against Syracuse.
This has all the makings of a close game and features the regular season champs of this season’s two best conferences. I think Sullinger and Robinson will pretty much cancel each other out, but I’m giving Ohio State the nod based on two players – Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas. Craft’s ability to pressure Tyshawn Taylor will play a key role in the outcome, while Thomas has been OSU’s top player over the last month or so of the season. I think he’s a tough matchup for the Kansas defense and will continue his strong play in the Final Four.
Predicted winner: Ohio State
Ohio State Buckeyes Team Capsule
- Conference: Big Ten
- Record: 27-7 (13-5 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 6-4
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 10-6
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Duke, Florida, Indiana, Lamar, Michigan (2), Michigan State, Purdue (2), Wisconsin
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Michigan State (2), Wisconsin
- Player to Watch: Jared Sullinger (6’9” C, So.) – 17.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 53.9 FG%
Ohio State Bottoms Line:
The Buckeyes had a somewhat disappointing season but still finished in a first-place tie for the Big Ten title and made it to the conference championship game. The quartet of Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas, William Buford, and Aaron Craft do the heavy lifting for Ohio State, and they have routinely gotten little production from their bench.
Sullinger had another solid season and is a load in the post and on the glass. He consistently puts pressure on opposing defenses and boasts a solid free throw rate. Thomas has stepped up with an outstanding sophomore year, hitting over 61 percent from two-point range and scoring over 15 points per game. Buford has been somewhat inconsistent, and the Buckeyes are a different basketball team when he is on his game. The point guard position is in good hands with Craft, who has a solid assist rate and is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country.
Interestingly enough, Ohio State finished the season first in both offensive and defensive efficiency on KenPom, which in some ways bodes well for their tournament hopes. They Buckeyes have really missed the shooting of Jon Diebler and David Lighty, as they are making just 32.5 percent from beyond the arc. They do rank 12th in two-point shooting percentage and take great care of the basketball. Defensively, OSU rarely allows offensive rebounds and does a nice job keeping their opponents off the line. They also rank in the Top 60 in turnover rate and effective field goal percentage defense.
Ultimately, Ohio State’s key to a deep NCAA run is the play of Buford who needs to find his shooting stroke as his final trip to the Big Dance begins.
Kansas Jayhawks Team Capsule
- Conference: Big 12
- Record: 27-6 (16-2 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 9-1
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 12-6
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Baylor (2), Georgetown, Iowa State, Kansas State (2), Long Beach State, Missouri, Ohio State, South Florida, Texas (2)
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Baylor, Davidson, Duke, Iowa State, Kentucky, Missouri
- Player to Watch: Thomas Robinson (6’9” F, Jr.) – 17.9 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 1.1 spg, 1.0 bpg, 53.1 FG%
Kansas Bottoms Line:
Despite losing a number of key contributors from last season’s team, the Jayhawks refused to relinquish their stranglehold on the Big 12 and won the league by two full games.
Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson is a double-double machine who is relentless on both ends of the floor. His 31.6 defensive rebounding percentage is the best in the country, and he has proved adept at getting opposing defenders into foul trouble. The other key offensive weapon is guard Tyshawn Taylor, who averages 17.3 points and a team-high 4.8 assists while hitting 43.5 percent from deep. Center Jeff Withey has come up big for the Jayhawks on multiple occasions and always impacts the game with his rebounding and shot-blocking prowess.
Overall, Kansas ranks in the Top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and their two-point shooting and two-point defense are also among the nation’s best. They have also done a solid job of getting to the line and competing on the glass.