COLUMBUS — With a few hours before No. 9 Kansas tips off against No. 7 Ohio State, here’s a five-minute guide to the top-10 showdown.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
1. Key matchup: Elijah Johnson vs. Aaron Craft
Johnson, KU’s senior point guard, has come into his own over the last four games, averaging seven assists and 2.5 turnovers in his last four games. He’s still not shooting free throws; Johnson is averaging just 1.3 per game this season. But he has been more dangerous off the dribble during KU’s surge in the last few weeks.
Craft, though, is no ordinary defender. Last season, Craft created turnovers on 7.56 percent of opponents’ possessions, according to Luke Winn’s fantastic “Aaron Craft Turnometer”. (KU coach Bill Self can remember Craft picking Tyshawn Taylor at least twice last year.) If Craft’s defense negates part of Johnson’s offense, the Jayhawks may still snag a tiny advantage in the backcourt. Craft is not much of an offensive option. He’s scored just 4.6 points per game in Ohio State’s last five contest.
2. Key number: 70 points. In the last two-plus seasons (this year and the last two), Kansas is 59-3 when scoring at least 70 points and just 17-8 when scoring fewer than 70.
Some of this is about defense, not offense. The split would look similar if we looked at games in which KU allowed more than (or fewer than) 70 points. But here’s the question: Can KU get to 70 on the road against a top-10 team from the Big Ten?
3. Computer rankings: Kansas and Ohio State are among only six teams in the top 16 nationally in offensive and defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com.
The full list: Florida, Indiana, Duke, Syracuse, Kansas and Ohio State.
The Jayhawks rank 12th in offensive efficiency and sixth in defense, while Ohio State ranks seventh on offense and 16th on defense.
4. Hard to believe: Kansas has not trailed for a second in its last seven games. One part domination, one part fluke, perhaps. (If one team would have even taken a harmless 2-0 lead, the streak would be kaput.) Still, the Jayhawks have led for their last 293 minutes and 17 seconds on the court. The last team to have a lead on Kansas was Chattanooga on Nov. 15.