Two All-Americans going at it with everything on the line. Excellent coaching matchup of Bill Self and Thad Matta.
Ohio State is led by Jared Sullinger, the sophomore forward who missed the first matchup between these teams with a bad back. Kansas’ best player is Thomas Robinson, who had 21 points and seven rebounds in the Jayhawks’ 78-67 win on Dec. 10.
“In my eyes, he’s the college player of the year,” Sullinger said of Robinson. “I know some think different. But with his season, the way he took his team to the top, you’ve just got to give it to him.”
At one point last season, Sullinger was viewed as a surefire lottery pick, a one-and-done prospect with nothing much left to prove in college. He never saw it that way, however, and when Ohio State was eliminated from last year’s tournament as a No. 1 seed, the 6-foot-9 forward committed to staying in college.
“I wanted to make a statement, that not everybody is using college basketball as a pit stop to go the next level,” he said. “That there’s more than money and endorsements. There’s championships that you’ve got to win at every level. That’s what I pride myself on. I’ve won a championship all the way from elementary to now. I pride myself on winning. That’s the biggest thing. That’s why I came back.”
“Pride,” was also one of the first words Robinson used when asked about his decision to return for his junior year.
“It was a pride issue,” Robinson said. “I didn’t want people to guess and be like, `I think he can play. We’ve seen glimpses.’ I wanted to come back and prove to everybody that I’m a good player.”
Both teams can and do, light up the scoreboard. They are very active and put their heads down to defend, this will be a a competitive game start to finish. It could be one of the better Final Four matchups in recent memory, these teams are that good. Each team has a scoring trio averaging over 40 points and they both shoot around 70% at the charity stripe. They are very similar across the stat line and they’re both championship game worthy.
Prediction: Almost flipped a quarter to decide between the Jayhawks & Buckeyes, but in another game that could be an instant classic let’s go with Ohio State. The odds are 2.5 in their favor, and they cover the spread consistently compared to Kansas and their 50/50 results throughout the year.