OSU vs. KU: An "Insider's" Preview

rdubs's picture
March 27, 2012 at 11:27p

I know that 11W will have their own preview, but being a big fan of both teams and watching a majority of their games this year I figured I would give it a go.  It’s a bit late, but you can consider it my official application for the 11W beat reporter spot.  I tended to write a bit more about the Kansas players, figuring that people know more about the Buckeyes.


1. Aaron Craft vs. Tyshawn Taylor
Craft (8.8 ppg; 4.7 apg; 2.5 spg): Defense, defense, defense, duh...  Craft leads all players to at least make the Elite 8 in steals with 3.25 per tourney game.  However his quick hands grab more than just ball, he has the lowest steal-to-foul ratio of all players with 9 or more steals in the tournament.  His ability to cut off the ball while staying out of foul trouble will be one of the big keys if the Buckeyes are to win.

Tyshawn (16.7 ppg; 4.7 apg; 3.5 topg):  Now a senior, KU fans know both ‘Good Tyshawn’ and ‘Bad Tyshawn’ (sound like a senior Buckeye fans know?).  Tyshawn has been mostly ‘Good’ for the last half of the season and was playing on a torn meniscus the last time these teams met (he had surgery immediately after the game), so Buckeye fans will likely see a different player than the one that fumbled the ball 7 times in December.  Tyshawn has struggled from 3 in the tournament but he gets to the rim and finishes, scoring 22 against UNC.  While TRob may win national player of the year, the team runs through Tyshawn and as a Cousy Award finalist, he may earn his own post-season award.

Verdict: Both players are the emotional leaders for their teams despite being overshadowed by bigger name big men.  It will come down to whether Tyshawn can take care of the ball and whether Craft can contain him without fouling.  Tyshawn might be the fastest player in college basketball so he’ll get his chances, but Craft will win his share too.  This one may be too close to call, but I’ll break your hearts and give it to Tyshawn.

2. Lenzelle Smith Jr. vs. Elijah Johnson
Lenzelle (6.7 ppg; 4.6 rpg; 2.0 apg): Lenzelle has had a coming out party in the biggest games of the season, scoring 17 and 18 points in the last two.  Prior to that, he has been a solid role player who has flown under the radar all season.  Offensive rebounding is probably the biggest thing he brings to the team on a regular basis.

Elijah (10.0 ppg; 3.1 rpg; 3.6 apg): Elijah is one of three Jayhawk juniors who have blossomed this year with an increased role, averaging nearly 20 minutes more per game.  Like Lenzelle he is the consummate role player.  And like Lenzelle, he is easily capable of providing the huge play that breaks a game open like the three pointer off a pick and roll against UNC to put the Jayhawks up 4 with 3 minutes to go which ignited the 12-0 run.  Despite being only 6-2 he can jump out of the gym and he has had some highlight dunks that are reminiscent of Sam Thompson (even in high school).

Verdict:  Another close battle that may actually have the biggest impact on the outcome since either one is capable of igniting his team.  Elijah has been solid in the tournament, but I think because of his underrated defense Lenzelle continues on his tear and gets the best of this match up.

3. William Buford vs. Travis Releford
Willie B. (14.4 ppg; 4.9 rpg; 2.7 apg): Buford was supposed to be a star this year after averaging 30 minutes or more per game for his whole career.  After the way his season has gone, Buckeye fans probably wish he thought he were a role player.  We all know what he is capable of and he put up 21 last time these teams met, but it took 23 shots.

Releford (8.5 ppg; 4.2 rpg; 1.8 apg): After playing a bit as a freshman he redshirted the next year and now has become a solid starter for the Jayhawks.  Releford reminds me a bit of Lenzelle in that he is the starter that everyone forgets about but is capable of putting up a big game out of nowhere.  Like Lenzelle he gets his share of offensive rebounds and easy putbacks.  Because of his underrated athleticism, he is also a solid defender who was paired against Hummel after TRob couldn’t keep up with him in the Purdue game so we could see him go up against DT.

Verdict: This one is Buford’s to lose.  Releford will likely have a solid game, but nothing spectacular.  So unless he pushes too much to do more than the Buckeyes need of him, I’ll give this one to Buford.

4.  Deshaun Thomas vs. Thomas Robinson
DT (16.1 ppg; 5.4 rpg; 0.9 apg):  Deshaun has become more and more the go-to guy as teams have collapsed on Sullinger.  He has great range for power forward (likely because he is more of a small forward).  His defense has improved, making him even more valuable to this team.  His putbacks on the offensive boards pad his stats and make a big difference for a team that often struggles from outside.

TRob (17.7 ppg; 11.8 rpg; 1.9 apg):  He should win NPOY.  I know people might think Anthony Davis should win, but TRob is the reason this team, that lost 4 starters from last year’s team, has a chance win a championship.  He gets to the rim, he rebounds, he blocks shots, he has improved his mid to long range jumper (including 7/14 on three pointers).  He is solid off of the dribble which could be a tough match up for DT who isn’t known for his defense.  His combination of size and athleticism reminds me a bit of Dwight Howard, but he struggles to pass out of double teams and turns the ball over too much for a guy who doesn’t bring the ball up the court.

Verdict: As amazing as Deshaun has been, even picking up his defense, he just isn’t going to have the overall edge here.  Both had pretty big games in the previous matchup, but I think Robinson was a bit better.  Robinson is the likely NPOY for a reason and while both will again put up big numbers, TRob beats out Deshaun. 

5. Jared Sullinger vs. Jeff Withey
Sullinger (17.6 ppg; 9.1 rpg; 1 bpg):  Sully has had another great year with very similar stats to last year.  The rebounds went down again, which is likely due to him spending more time outside the paint, some of which is behind the three point line since he is shooting 4 times as many 3 pointers as last year (making 5 times as many).  His interior post game is probably the best in college basketball.  If he were 5 inches taller, he would be the next coming of Shaq.  But his lack of height mixed with his lack of jumping ability will likely make him merely very good at the next level and not great.

Withey (9.2 ppg; 6.2 rpg; 3.5 bpg):  It took about half of a season, but Withey has started living up to KU’s hopes for him when he transferred from Arizona.  The 7-footer is a former volleyball player so he can also move pretty well which is why he is such a good shot blocker.  He leads all tourney players with 5 blocks per game and his last two against UNC sealed the deal by leading to easy points on the other end.  He sometimes sits against tough match ups, playing only 9 minutes against Missouri the second time around.  But when he is in there, the high-low post game between him and TRob is a tough match up for anyone and helps alleviate tough perimeter defenders like Craft.

Verdict: This matchup isn’t the one that people want to see since the two All-Americans will likely be guarding others for most of the game. But I do think this is a particularly tough matchup for Sully given Withey’s length and shot blocking prowess.  However Withey doesn’t take too many charges because he goes for blocks so this should keep Sully out of foul trouble.  Sullinger uses his body well even against bigger defenders and can extend Withey outside the paint.  If he does, in fact, stay out of foul trouble Sully will win this battle. 

OSU: Wait…bench… what’s that?  Oh you mean all 5 starters don’t have to play the whole game?  I think we have all imagined Thad having that inner dialogue at various points of the season.  Ravenel and Amir came off the bench against Syracuse and played well.  We’ve seen Sam Thompson fly through the roof and Shannon Scott get his chances to make a shot.  But frankly we always pray that no one gets in foul trouble because we aren’t ready to trust the bench much at all.

KU:  The Jayhawk bench isn’t much deeper.  The first two guys off the bench are former walk-on Connor Teahan (a poor man’s Brady Morningstar) and Loyola Marymount transfer Kevin Young.  Occasionally, Lamar transfer Justin Wesley and freshman Nadir Thaarpe get a chance, but neither one contributes much. 

Verdict:  Kevin Young is the reserve most likely to have the biggest impact on the game.  He goes all out and gets offensive rebounds like there is no tomorrow since he knows his playing time is limited and fouls aren’t an issue.  Self tends to rotate Withey and Robinson once they both have a foul in the first half and leaves Young in for long periods of time.  His energy may cause some problems for Deshaun and may help keep DT off the offensive boards.  It’s hard not to love his effort, but KU fans wish he had even a quarter of the talent of either of the starting bigs.  But since the bar is so low, KU walks away with the bench advantage.

Thad Matta:  He has had an unbelievable run since he joined the Buckeye family.   The record for wins in a season at OSU prior to his arrival was 27 games.  His average win total is 27.6 per season.  That stat alone shows you how good he is.

Bill Self:  Replacing Roy Williams looked to be a tall order for the former Illinois coach, but with his success he is quickly making Roy into an afterthought.  He has more wins than any other college coach since he has taken over in Lawrence (Calipari had that until he had to vacate a bunch of wins at Memphis).  The Jayhawks have won 8 straight Big XII championships and has never been worse than a 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.  And don’t forget the 2008 National Championship over Calipari’s Memphis team that included Derrick Rose.

Verdict:  Both are great coaches.  Buckeye fans are hoping Matta never leaves. What he has done at a football school in terms of bringing in top basketball talent is unrivaled.  However, Self is possibly the best coach in the country right now.  They lost 4 starters and 2 solid bench players off of last year’s team and didn’t miss a beat.  Self switched defenses near the end of the UNC game and Roy didn't have an answer.  KU closed that game on a 12-0 run and the new defense sparked several transition points in that run.

Since both teams have such short benches the outcome of the game could hinge on how visible the refs want to be.  With Sullinger back and a neutral site it is easy to say that the Buckeyes will have the edge this time around, but KU is one of the most improved teams since the midway point of the season.  Four weeks ago the Buckeyes wouldn’t have had much chance, but they too are improved since then.  I just don’t think they have come far enough and I think this is a tough match up for the Buckeyes’ best players.  I think the Jayhawks win, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes an overtime to pull it off.

If 11W has a word limit, my shot at this reporter gig just went up in flames… Thanks for reading if you’re still here.

Comments Show All Comments

Jason Priestas's picture

Good stuff. Thanks for putting this together.

UrbanCulture's picture

Demarcus Cousins and Drose weren't on the same team. Cousins played at Kentucky, otherwise nice stuff but I will have to politely disagree with the result of the game lol


rdubs's picture

You're right blew that one, all of those Calipari villians run together for me... And as for the result, there is a reason I never gamble with my own money and I am pretty sure my 11W bracket is solidly in the bottom half...

LadyBuck's picture

Excellent write up, but like others have said before me, I respectfully disagree with your prediction. Motivation is a key factor, and I think the Bucks will have more than the Jayhawks. 

blazers34's picture

I hope his prediction is wrong too, but how do the Bucks have more motivation?  I mean, the winner goes to the damn championship game.  Who cares what happened early on.  I dont think Kansas will take us lightly due to that game.

LadyBuck's picture

I like to think that losing adds something. Maybe not a lot, but something. That, and we haven't won the whole enchillada for a long time.

Maestro's picture

Nice job man.  As another dual fan in this match-up I think you pegged the players really well.

Teahen will play and if he somehow finds his 3-point stroke he could be an x-factor.  DYK, Kevin Young made 2 three pointers against the Bucks in December.  He made 1 more the remainder of the season.

vacuuming sucks

RedStorm45's picture

"This matchup isn’t the one that people want to see since the two All-Americans will likely be guarding others for most of the game."

No.  TRob will not guard Sully and vice versa unless one of the coaches makes a big lineup change.  Withey will take on Sully.  Sorry.

Kansas uses a triangle-and-two variation on defense at times (pretty rarely, usually out of timeouts) if Self doesn't like what he sees.  Saw it a little bit in the tourney so far.  Could cause confusion for the Bucks.

Releford on Hummel? I didn't see the WHOLE game, but someone from the Kansas City Star said they put Withey on Hummel after he had like 19 in the first 10 minutes of the game.  Not an avid follower so I could be wrong but that's what somebody from Kansas said.

Kansas has started out slowly in nearly every tournament game.  Didn't have a great big 12 tournament.  Struggled early with Detroit, obviously the Purdue game the Boilers choked away, 3 point win over NC State, and needed a 12-0 run to put away a UNC team that was on its 3rd PG.  We'll see how far D.T. has come defensively as Robinson will be his toughest matchup so far.  Then again, how comfortable is TRob chasing Thomas out to the 3 point line?  Anyway, in at least 3 of the 4 games for Kansas so far you've probably thought, Oh Man, this could be it.  Ohio State has always felt in control even with some of those late runs coming in Boston.  Maybe I'm biased but OSU just seems to be playing better overall.

RC's picture

Releford shadowed Hummel most of the second half, the half in which he was far less productive.  They played a triangle and two most of that time.

Maestro's picture

Withey hardly played at all in the 2nd half against Purdue.  15 minutes total for the game.  He is essentially useless against a small lineup.

vacuuming sucks

Run_Fido_Run's picture

And, given Whithey's height, he's a good, but not great rebounder.

I could see the Buckeyes running more 1-in, 4-out style because both Tank and Sully can hit the threes. Heck, they're probably the two best 3-pt shooters on the team, except for when Lenzelle is on fire. If the Robinson/Whithey pair cannot guard the Tank/Sully pair outside, the Buckeyes could get several good 3-pt looks until KU adjusts (like they did against Purdue); moreover, if Tank gets a three off as Robinson futiley chases him, that leaves Whithey trying to keep Sully off the offensive boards - no contest.

The more I think about, the more I'm inclined to see Whithey going back to playing only 20 minutes or so, compared to the 30 minutes he's played in a few recent games.  

Maestro's picture

Self adjusts.  He isn't afraid to just sit Withey for huge stretches of time.  The Withey-Robinson vs Sully-Thomas match up is very interesting.  Especially with foul issues.

vacuuming sucks

OldColumbusTown's picture

Good assessment.  Most everything you referenced that I disagree with is essentially just semantics.

The only thing I feel many are assuming to be fact is this blanket statement that Kansas has improved so much since these two teams met earlier this season.  Overall, yes I am sure they have improved.  But, other than a very high number of turnovers, Kansas put together an extremely impressive performance December 10 in Lawrence.

They shot 58% from the field.  53% from three.  Kevin Young had his best game of the season.  Dude hasn't hit a three since he made 2 of 3 against OSU.  Elijah Johnson also made 5 of 7 from deep, and he's a 33% shooter for the year.

Point is, this Kansas team showed they were a capable FF team that day with their performance.  They were that good.  OSU was missing Sullinger, shot dreadfully, and turned the ball over as well.  Yet they played Kansas pretty tough until the latter moments.

I know in this case it's not as easy as saying 1+1=2, but I truly believe OSU has essentially seen Kansas's current level, and are up to the challenge with the addition of Jared.

rdubs's picture

Arguing over predictions isn't really worth it because even Vegas messes up sometimes.  But I'll take you up on your statement about Kansas not improving.  Maybe I could have used another reason to justify Kansas winning.  But I definitely think they have improved a lot.  They were very up and down early in the season.  After beating OSU they lost to Davidson and barely snuck by LBSU right before.  Just having Withey playing at a higher level and Tyshawn fully healthy is enough for me to think they are a better team even if I hadn't watched them the rest of the year.  OSU has improved in the last couple of weeks and maybe it will be enough.  I essentially think this game is a toss up but I didn't want to chicken out and not pick a side after writing all that up.  It wasn't much more than a hunch that made me pick Kansas (maybe just that they have a lot more experience with close games).

OldColumbusTown's picture

Definitely agree, and like I said, I believe Kansas has improved since earlier in the season.  But, I think part of their problem was some inconsistency and playing more to the level of competition.  The game against OSU, they played pretty doggone close to the level they are playing at right now.

So yes, they have improved, but I feel like they played extremely well against the Buckeyes the first time around.  They played more to their ceiling in that game, and I expect to see a similiar performance from them this time around.  OSU, on the other hand, did not play even close to their potential, and I feel we will see a different team/different performance from them.

FLBuckeye's picture

They may have "improved" a lot after the OSU game, but I'm looking at "what you have done for me lately." After the first round they barely slipped past #10 Purdue (would've lost if Purdue would've run some sort of offense the last 1:30) and barely beat #11 NCST. It was also down to the wire in the UNC game until the last 2-3 minutes, a UNC team (honestly think they're a 4-5 seed team w/o KM) that was a free throw away from losing to Ohio. I mean they could certainly turn it on come Saturday and I'm pretty sure they will, but with the late season resume right now they really don't look that great. 

RedStorm45's picture

That was an ugly win over Detroit in their first game in which Detroit was in it for quite a bit.  Can't wait till Craft shuts all of the analysts up...going crazy because Taylor put up 22 on a 3rd string PG.  Haha what a joke.

Maestro's picture

Some teams just find ways to win, and that is the best thing that I can say about this year's Kansas team.  They have played from behind in so many games and won so many of those games that they just believe they are never out of a game.  See the Mizzou game in Lawrence.  Down 19 and won.  This Kansas team believes in itself period, and that is something that you can't ignore.

Most everyone I have heard nationally and even hear in KU's backyard is picking OSU FWIW.

vacuuming sucks

Adamant73's picture

Fouls trouble could most likely be a determining factor. If Withey gets into foul trouble I like our chances with Sullinger against anyone they have. If Sullinger gets in foul trouble and is a non factor then we could see a repeat perfromance of first game. I can't see Tyshawn Taylor dishing out 13 again and if Craft can disrupt him then that would change the game big time in our favor. Don't let Robinson go crazy, keep him around 15-18 and we have will have done a great job on him.

rdubs's picture

Along those lines, one thing I probably should have mentioned is free throws.  Neither team is that great at free throws.  The best foul shooter on Kansas is Jeff Withey.  A little strange that a 7 footer is the best foul shooter, just ask Shaq.  It could be that whichever team shoots like Kentucky did against Indiana will put themselves over top.

RedStorm45's picture

Funny how this FF is being billed as four "traditional powers" and yada yada yada.  Apparently Louisville and Ohio State are both blue bloods in college basketball.  KU and UK obviously are...but UNC, Duke, Indiana, UCLA, UConn etc. I would argue are more "tradition rich" in basketball than Louisville or OSU.  Just thought it was an interesting take from a lot of analysts.

William's picture

Louisville has two titles, and OSU has 11 Final Fours, which is more than Louisville, Indiana, UConn, or Syracuse. OSU and Duke I believe are the only schools to have had at least one Final Four team the last 7 decades, pretty impressive. Syracuse only has one title anyway, and they even have fewer national title appearances than us.

LadyBuck's picture

It's definitely weird being called a "traditional power" or a "basketball blueblood." When you say Ohio State, people go football. We all do it, even the  biggest basketball fans out there. However, this is our 11th final four, we've had 4 (if my memory serves me right) National Championship appearances, and have produced a decent amount of NBA talent. It's definitely a merit we can own up to, but not our identity like football is to us or basketball is to Duke, UNC, Indiana, UConn, UCLA, UK, KU, etc. That is the biggest difference in my opinion. 

OldColumbusTown's picture

It is a little strange, but if Thad Matta stays another 3-5 years (at least) and nothing major changes, I don't think it will feel strange at all.

When you think about the run this program has put together the past three years (94-18 record, One #1 seed, Two #2 seeds), and consider all three were constructed differently, with different leaders, focal players, etc., it really is quite incredible.  Then step back and look at what this program has done in the 8 year time under Thad Matta:

  • 77.5% Winning Percentage
  • 5 Regular Season B1G Titles
  • 3 B1G Tournament Titles
  • 3 B1G Tournament Runners-Up
  • 1 NIT Championship
  • 6 NCAA Appearances (eligible for 7)
  • NCAA Tournament seeds - Two #1 Seeds, Three #2 Seeds, One #8 Seed
  • 4 Sweet Sixteen Appearances
  • 2 Final Fours
  • 1 National Runner-Up

I don't think enough people really stop and realize what this program has become under Thad Matta.  And he is showing no signs of slowing down!

RedStorm45's picture

Well, his health may slow him down.  He was quoted as saying he thought was "done" (as in coaching) in January due to back pain.  He says even standing up and sitting down during games is hard on him.

The record for wins before he got here was 27...and he's averaging 27.6 W's a year now.  It's crazy to think in '04 he knocked off undefeated #1 St. Joe's in the A-10 tourney...and in '05 he knocked off #1 undefeated Illinois.  

But because this is just his 2nd trip to the final 4 in his tenure (and only his 2nd trip to the elite 8 as well), people want results in March.  There's always some kind of bad matchup for every team, and we happened to run into them in UT and UK.  Still, the Big Dance after the 1st round or 2 is really just a crap shoot in matchups.

RedStorm45's picture

We actually were the runner-up in the first "NCAA Tournament" (only 8 teams involved) to Oregon, however Jimmy Hull won MOP.  That was 1939.  Then the title in 1960 followed up by 2 runner-up finishes in '61 and '62.  Then obviously the '07 runner up team.  So we're 1 for 5 in title games.  Does that mean we're due if we make it there this year?