Mar 26, 2012, 12:24 AM EDT
Kansas survived the Midwest Region, earning three point wins over Purdue and NC State before knocking off the Kendall Marshell-less Tar Heels to advance to their first Final Four since the Jayhawks won the 2008 national title.
Ohio State, on the other hand, survived Gonzaga before knocking off both Cincinnati and Syracuse as they advanced to the Final Four out of the East Region, their first tip to the NCAA tournament’s third weekend since the Greg Oden era (also known as 2007).
Bill Self against Thad Matta. Thomas Robinson against Jared Sullinger. If it wasn’t for the Battle of the Bluegrass State, everyone would be talking about how great this matchup is.
Key Matchup: Aaron Craft vs. Tyshawn Taylor: It’s not a secret that Aaron Craft is the best on-ball defender in the country. How good is he? Luke Winn over at SI.com created a brand new stat just to measure how many turnovers a game Craft forces. (Hint: it’s a lot.) Now, where this gets interesting is that Tyshawn Taylor has developed a (well-earned) for being too turnover-inclined. Taylor was sensational in the Jayhawk’s win over North Carolina in the Elite Eight, but until he took over down the stretch, the four most memorable plays he were three turnovers and a horrendous three. I’ve maintained for a while that Taylor is the most important player on the Kansas roster. Can Craft keep him in check?
X-Factor: Lenzelle Smith Jr. vs. Elijah Johnson: Lenzelle Smith Jr. going up against Elijah Johnson. Johnson is averaging 15.8 ppg in his last six games. He’s really come into his own, providing the Jayhawks with a third scoring option alongside Robinson and Taylor. He was almost single-handedly responsible for the Kansas win over Purdue in the Round of 32. Smith has been just as good for the Buckeyes. He scored 33 points in the regionals and has his biggest games in Ohio State’s biggest wins.
Best Storyline: Did Sullinger duck T-Rob?: I don’t think he did. I guarantee Sullinger will tell you that he didn’t. You probably won’t get Robinson admitting as much unless he is no where near any kind of recording device. And whether or not it was intentional or simply the result of his back injury, Sullinger didn’t play and Ohio State lost to Kansas as Robinson went for 21 points.
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