(2) Ohio State (31-7) vs. (2) Kansas (31-6) – 9:05PM ET, New Orleans, LA, CBS
In what could be the best game of the night, two of the heavyweights from the entire 2011-12 season get together for a chance to play for a National Championship. Both of these teams were consensus staples in the top 10 during the year and spent much time in the top 5.
They met earlier this season in December, but Ohio State was without the services of forward and leader Jared Sullinger. Kansas came away with an 11-point home victory and never really looked back on the road to becoming a surprising 2 seed in this tournament.
The Jayhawks handled Detroit rather easily in the first round, but were forced to scratch and claw their way to nail-biting victories over Purdue and North Carolina State in the next two rounds, and even versus North Carolina in their Elite 8 win.
Kansas has been led all season by arguably the Player of the Year, Thomas Robinson, and to a lesser extent, their mercurial point guard Tyshawn Taylor. Curiously, neither player has had a spectacular tournament, as both are still looking for their break out game.
Ohio State has a solid foursome that leads them. Sullinger and forwards William Buford and Deshaun Thomas are all big-time scorers, while the heart of their team is likely point guard Aaron Craft.
The Buckeyes have tread through this tournament in workmanlike fashion. They took care of business in their typical grind-it-out way versus Loyola, Md., Gonzaga, Cincinnati and finally a very good Syracuse team. They have done it with suffocating defense, led by Craft, and an efficient offensive attack with multiple options.
Look for the Buckeyes’ defense to knock Kansas a bit off its game and for Ohio State’s surplus of offensive options to be too much for Kansas defensively. The game should be competitive and entertaining, but unless Taylor and Robinson both have a monster game, it will be tough for the Jayhawks to keep up with the Buckeyes.
Prediction: Ohio State 82, Kansas 75