It is rare to see regular season rematches in the Final Four, let alone two of them.
But that will be the case tonight here in New Orleans as Kentucky faces instate rival Louisville in the first national semifinal (6:09 p.m.) and Ohio State tackles Kansas in the nightcap (8:49 p.m.). Both games will be televised nationally by CBS.
Kansas took a 78-67 win over Ohio State on Dec. 10 in Lawrence. OSU played that game without All-American center Jared Sullinger, who will be full-go tonight for the rematch.
A spot in Monday’s national championship game will be on the line tonight.
The Buckeyes (31-7) are making their second NCAA Final Four berth in six years under Thad Matta and 11th trip overall. Kansas (31-6) is making its 14th Final Four appearance.
Here is a look at our Five Pressing Questions for today’s OSU-Kansas game:
1. How will the Buckeyes contain Kansas All-American Thomas Robinson? – Robinson is a big guy at 6-10 and 237 pounds. Kansas also has 7-0 Jeff Withey at the center position. It is likely that the 6-9 Sullinger and 6-7 Deshaun Thomas will take turns defending Robinson. He is an absolute load and had 21 points in the teams’ first meeting.
It is likely that OSU will need a guard to double down on Robinson, particularly when the smaller Thomas has to guard him in the post. Keep an eye on these match-ups.
2. Can Deshaun Thomas continue his hot play? – Thomas has been the leading scorer in the NCAA Tournament to date, averaging 21.8 points and 8.5 rebounds in his four tournament games so far. Kansas will try and do its best to limit Thomas’ touches, but he is so versatile he can score from just about anywhere on the court. The Buckeyes need him to come up big again.
3. Can Aaron Craft force Tyshawn Taylor into some mistakes? – Kansas committed 18 turnovers in the teams’ first meeting. Craft hounded Taylor into seven of them, although Taylor also had nine points and 13 assists in that KU win. Craft is one of the top on-ball defenders in the country. He needs to pack his lunch and get ready for another tough match-up.
4. Can the Buckeyes close out on Elijah Johnson? – Johnson matched his career high with five three-pointers and 15 points in the teams’ first meeting. OSU’s perimeter defense needs to be on guard.
5. Will the real William Buford stand up? – He had a 25-point game in OSU’s win at Michigan State on March 4. In the seven games since then, Buford is hitting only 34 percent of his shots. He was a combined 4 of 20 in OSU’s regional wins over Cincinnati and Syracuse. You know he does not want his OSU career to end here, one game before the national title game.
Bonus Question: Is this a national championship team? – We won’t know the answer to that question until Monday night, of course. But you can’t win the championship unless you get to the title game. OSU is 5-5 all-time in national semifinal games, but has only made the title game once (2007) in the last 50 years.
I will stay with my original pick here: Ohio State 75, Kansas 69
Enjoy the game and stay with us later on for complete coverage of the Final Four!
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