NCAA Tournament

Kansas-Ohio State preview

POINT GUARD

10 Tyshawn Taylor

6-3 185 Sr. Hoboken, N.J.

16.7 ppg, 4.7 apg, 0-17 on threes/NCAA

Vs.

4 Aaron Craft

6-2 190 So. Findlay, Ohio

8.8 ppg, 2.5 steals, 50.7 FG %

Two of the best defensive guards in the country. Taylor’s length helps prevent open looks, and Craft’s quickness will bother Taylor’s ability to penetrate. Craft is also a master at slapping the ball out of the hands of the bigs, putting Thomas Robinson and especially Jeff Withey on alert. Taylor has missed his last 20 three-point attempts, and he’s never made one in a dome.

Edge >> Taylor
SHOOTING GUARD

15 Elijah Johnson

6-4 195 Jr. Las Vegas

10.0 ppg, 45.0 3FG/NCAA

Vs.

32 Lenzelle Smith Jr.

6-4 205 So. Zion, Ill.

6.7 ppg, 37.7 3FG, 4.6 rpg

Smith plays the fewest minutes among the starters, but he came up big in the East Regional with 17 points against Cincinnati and 18 against Syracuse. He also went six for 10 on three-pointers. A case can be made for Elijah Johnson as KU’s MVP of the NCAA Tournament. He’s averaged 13.5 points and made nine of 20 threes (45 percent). He’s become the team’s third scoring source.

Edge >> Johnson SMALL FORWARD

24 Travis Releford

6-6 207 Jr. Kansas City

8.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 50.0 FG%

Vs.

44 William Buford

6-6 220 Sr. Toledo, Ohio

14.4 ppg, 82.6 FT%, 4.9 rpg

Buford is Mr. Ohio State. He’s a four-year starter and the fourth-leading scorer in program history. Buford had 21 against the Jayhawks in December, but needed 23 shots to get it as Travis Releford played excellent defense that day. He’ll have to again. Buford is one of the Buckeyes’ two primary deep threats. Releford’s offense largely comes from hustle and stick-backs, but he popped in a big three against North Carolina in the regional final.

Edge >> Buford POWER FORWARD

0 Thomas Robinson

6-10 237 Jr. Washington, D.C.

17.7 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 51.2 FG%

Vs.

1 Deshaun Thomas

6-7 225 So. Ft. Wayne, Ind.

16.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 35.5 3FG%

Thomas is the Buckeyes’ other primary outside threat. He’s hitting 35.5 percent of his threes, and he’s excellent around the basket. He has the ability to pull Robinson away from the basket, but on the offensive end Robinson should get scoring opportunities. Robinson hasn’t had a good shooting game yet in the NCAA, hitting 31.5 percent. But he’s been a beast on the boards at 12.5 per game.

Edge >> Robinson CENTER/FORWARD

5 Jeff Withey

7-0 235 Jr., San Diego

3.5 blocks, 9.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg

Vs.

0 Jared Sullinger

6-9 265 So. Columbus, Ohio

17.6 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 53.1 FG%

Sullinger is one of the game’s most creative players, and defensive positioning — and contesting shots without fouling — will be vital for Withey. Robinson will guard Sullinger some, and look for Kevin Young on Sullinger or Thomas at times. Withey gave KU a solid 15 points against North Carolina, and at 73.7 percent he remains the most reliable free throw shooter among starters.

Edge >> Sullinger BOTTOM LINE

Ohio State is a slight betting favorite, the first time in the NCAA Tournament that Kansas has been an underdog. After a late season wobble in which the Buckeyes lost three of five, they got their act together and have won eight of nine, losing only to Michigan State in the Big Ten tourney finale. This Jayhawks’ Final Four run seems improbable if only the offensive numbers are considered: KU is shooting 40.6 percent and a horrid 23.5 percent on threes. But Kansas is playing excellent defense and coming up with all the clutch plays. That will happen again.

Prediction: Kansas 71-68
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