Saturday's Preview: #2 Ohio State at #13 Kansas

    
December 10th, 2011
The lone matchup between ranked teams on Saturday has a rather prominent question that needs to be answered: will Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger (back spasms) be able to play? The sophomore sat out the Buckeyes' win over Texas-Pan American due to the issue, which flared up in #2 Ohio State's (8-0) win over Duke, and it hasn't been decided whether or not he'll go at #13 Kansas (6-2) on Saturday afternoon. If he can't go Boston College transfer Evan Ravenel (5.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg) moves into the starting lineup, and he accounted for 11 points and seven rebounds against UTPA.

But Thomas Robinson (17.4 ppg, 12.0 rpg) is better than any big man the Buckeyes have faced to this point in the season, and while there are still strides to be taken offensively there's no mistaking the fact that the junior is one of the Big 12's best. Robinson's made 51% of his shots on the season, and his athleticism make him an issue for teams in pick and roll situations. Alongside Robinson is Jeff Withey, who played the best game of his career in the Jayhawks' win over Long Beach State (13 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocks). Was that an aberration or can the San Diego native continue on that path and be a consistent factor for Bill Self? He'll need to be if Kansas is to both win Saturday and be a title contender in the Big 12.

Ohio State will have the services of sophomore Deshaun Thomas (12.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg), who has raised his scoring average by five points a game and scored in double figure in each of the last seven games. Depending on which Kansas frontcourt player guards him Thomas has the chance to be an issue for the Jayhawks, but he'll need to improve defensively as well. While Ohio State will have some adjustments to make up front, there's little doubt that they're well taken care of on the perimeter thanks to shooting guard William Buford (16.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.4 apg) and point guard Aaron Craft (9.8 ppg, 5.5 apg, 3.1 rpg).

Craft is widely regarded as the best defensive point guard in the country, and this could be an issue for Kansas given the recent play of senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor (16.8 ppg, 3.6 apg). Taylor's averaging four turnovers per game on the season, and he's turned the ball over at least four times in each of the last five games (11 in the Maui Invitational final loss to Duke). As a team Kansas averages 15 turnovers a game (21.5% of their possessions have ended in a turnover), and Elijah Johnson and Connor Teahan are the lone rotation players averaging more assists than turnovers per game.

Ohio State has forced a turnover on 27.8% of their defensive possessions, with their season-high (36.8%) coming in their last game. Kansas can ill-afford to be loose with the basketball Saturday if they want to entertain any thoughts of beating the Buckeyes, with or without Sullinger playing. Outside of Kansas' three-pont percentage defense (37.1%) and issues with turnovers, there isn't much separating these teams statistically. If Self's charges can keep the fans at Allen Fieldhouse in the game with good execution there's a good chance that things aren't decided until late.

Indiana, who has had their undefeated record challenged in some circles due to their strength of schedule, hosts top-ranked Kentucky in what should be a frenzied atmosphere at Assembly Hall. For all of the young talents at John Calipari's disposal this is their first true road game of the season, and that should offer a challeng onto itself. The key for Indiana: force the Wildcats to have to execute in the half-court; allowing the likes of Terrence Jones and Anthony Davis to run freely on odd-man situations would be akin to playing with fire.

Cody Zeller's played very well for Tom Crean but just as important today may be sophomore Victor Oladipo. If he can influence the game with his defense and energy a task that more than a few have determined to be near impossible becomes a bit more manageable for the Hoosiers. Also of import in the Big Ten today is Wisconsin hosting UNLV, and the battle to establish tempo will be key. The Runnin' Rebels want to run while the Badgers will look for Jordan Taylor to control things at the point, so while things will likely be slow UNLV needs to be smart with the basketball.

The league "on the clock" today: that would be the Pac-12, which has had a horrific start to the season both results and personnel-wise. Washington (vs. Duke at MSG) and Arizona (hosting Clemson) take on ACC teams in games the conference needs to add something of substance to a currently meager profile. UCLA plays its first game without the now-dimissed Reeves Nelson and they'd better be alert against Penn at the Honda Center in Anaheim. While the distraction that was Nelson is now gone, does this team have enough talent to get to the NCAA Tournament? That's debatable right now.

The "Crosstown Shootout" is always one of the top rivalry games on the schedule, and this year's battle is no different with Cincinnati much in need of a high-profile non-conference win. Sean Kilpatrick spiced things up by stating earlier this week that Xavier's Tu Holloway wouldn't crack the Cincy starting five, bringing back visions of former Bearcat Terry Nelson within the city. In Holloway and Mark Lyons the Bearcats have one of the top backcourts in the country, a fearless duo that's front and center in crunch time. Cincinnati needs to make sure they consistently get the ball to Yancy Gates inside if they're to win, and whether or not Xavier can stp him depends on which Kenny Frease shows up.

Michigan State visiting Gonzaga is a late game that fans must keep an eye on, as it will be a good test for the young Spartan backcourt. Travis Trice has emerged as the option at the point, freeing up Keith Appling to play his more natural position off the ball the majority of the time. And speaking of city rivalries Villanova visits Temple in a Big 5 battle, with these two programs winning every Big 5 crown since the 2003-04 season (Saint Joseph's). Villanova, who fought hard in a loss to Missouri at the Jimmy V Classic, will lean heavily on Maalik Wayns at the point but need Mouphtaou Yarou and Dominic Cheek to play well in order to win.

Top 25 Games
5:15 PM (1) Kentucky at Indiana (ESPN)
3:15 PM (2) Ohio State at (13) Kansas (ESPN)
7:00 PM George Washington at (3) Syracuse
4:00 PM Fairleigh Dickinson at (4) Louisville (ESPN3)
12:00 PM Washington vs. (5) Duke* (CBS)
7:00 PM Long Beach State at (6) North Carolina (ESPN3)
12:30 PM Cincinnati at (8) Xavier (ESPN2)
5:00 PM Navy at (10) Missouri (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Green Bay at (11) Marquette (ESPN3)
2:30 PM Oklahoma State vs. (14) Pittsburgh* (ESPN2)
2:00 PM UNLV at (16) Wisconsin (BTN)
12:00 PM (17) Creighton at Saint Joseph's (TCN)
4:00 PM Troy at (18) Mississippi State (ESPN3)
4:00 PM (19) Michigan vs. Oakland* (FSN Detroit)
12:00 PM Howard at (21) Georgetown (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Michigan State at (22) Gonzaga (ESPN2)
4:00 PM (24) Harvard at Boston University (NESN)
8:00 PM Louisiana-Monroe at (25) Texas A&M

NCAA Division I Games
12:00 PM Bryant at Providence (Cox RI)
12:00 PM Austin Peay at Tennessee (ESPN3)
1:00 PM St. Peter's at Minnesota
1:00 PM Methodist at Campbell
1:00 PM Delaware at Delaware State
1:00 PM Milligan at Virginia Military
1:05 PM Maryville (MO) at Indiana State
2:00 PM Loyola (MD) at Mount St. Mary's (MASN)
2:00 PM Illinois-Springfield at Saint Louis
2:00 PM Long Island at Columbia
2:00 PM Central Connecticut State at Brown
2:00 PM BYU at Utah (FSN)
2:00 PM Chicago State at DePaul (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Akron at Cleveland State
2:00 PM East Tennessee State at Appalachian State
2:00 PM Butler at Ball State
2:00 PM St. Francis (NY) at Colgate
2:00 PM Rhode Island at Georgia State
2:00 PM Army at La Salle
2:00 PM Mercy at Maryland-Eastern Shore
2:00 PM Milwaukee at Northern Iowa (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Kent State at Western Carolina
3:00 PM Mississippi Valley State at Ole Miss
3:00 PM Arkansas at Oklahoma (ESPN3)
3:00 PM Central Michigan at Tennessee State
3:00 PM Florida International vs. Texas Wesleyan*
3:00 PM Loyola (IL) at Toledo
3:30 PM Wright State at Miami (OH)
4:00 PM North Dakota State at Arizona State
4:00 PM Clemson at Arizona (FSN)
4:00 PM Northern Illinois at UIC
4:00 PM Princeton at Drexel
4:00 PM Manhattan at Hofstra
4:00 PM Eastern Michigan at Purdue (BTN)
4:00 PM George Mason at Radford
4:00 PM Lehigh at Wagner
5:00 PM Villanova at Temple (ESPN2)
5:00 PM Bethune-Cookman at UCF
5:00 PM Lindsey Wilson at Samford
5:05 PM California Maritime at Sacramento State
5:15 PM Alabama State at Stephen F. Austin
5:30 PM Southern University vs. Jacksonville State*
5:30 PM Missouri State at Arkansas-Little Rock
6:00 PM Niagara at Hartford
6:00 PM Tennessee-Martin at Middle Tennessee
6:00 PM Georgia Tech at Savannah State
7:00 PM Pennsylvania vs. UCLA* (FSN West)
7:00 PM New Mexico at USC (FSN West)
7:00 PM Western Kentucky at IUPUI
7:00 PM UMBC at Towson
7:00 PM Canisius at St. Bonaventure
7:00 PM Miami (FL) at West Virginia (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Youngstown State at Buffalo
7:00 PM Penn State at Duquesne
7:00 PM Georgia Southern at Eastern Kentucky
7:00 PM Warner Southern at Florida Atlantic
7:00 PM South Carolina State at Gardner-Webb
7:00 PM Averett at High Point
7:00 PM VA Intermont at Liberty
7:00 PM Chattanooga at Mercer
7:00 PM Fordham at Monmouth
7:00 PM South Dakota at Morehead State
7:00 PM Davidson at Charlotte
7:00 PM American University at Saint Francis (PA)
7:00 PM Virginia-Wise at Wofford
7:30 PM Dartmouth at Notre Dame (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Boise State at LSU (CST)
8:00 PM Sam Houston State at North Texas
8:00 PM Texas State at Texas (LHN)
8:00 PM Texas A&M-Int at Texas-Pan American
8:00 PM Bacone at McNeese State
8:00 PM IPFW at Nebraska-Omaha
8:00 PM UMKC at Southeast Missouri State
8:00 PM Wake Forest at Seton Hall (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Hannibal-LaGrange at SIU-Edwardsville
8:00 PM Louisiana Tech at Southern Miss
8:00 PM Nebraska at TCU (The Mtn.)
8:00 PM Lipscomb at Tennessee Tech
8:00 PM MacMurray College at Tulane
8:00 PM Eastern Illinois at Western Illinois
8:05 PM North Carolina A&T at Evansville
8:05 PM Central Arkansas at Arkansas State
8:05 PM Dallas Christian at Houston Baptist
8:05 PM Bowling Green at Valparaiso
8:05 PM Utah State at Wichita State
8:30 PM North Dakota at South Dakota State
8:35 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Northern Arizona
9:00 PM Nevada at Montana
9:00 PM Maine at San Diego
9:00 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Air Force
9:00 PM Southern Utah at Weber State
9:05 PM Portland State at Utah Valley
10:00 PM Cal Poly at San Jose State
10:00 PM Vanguard at UC Irvine
10:00 PM Idaho State at Loyola Marymount
10:00 PM Fresno State at Oregon (CSN NW)
10:00 PM Cal State Northridge at Pepperdine
10:00 PM Ohio at Portland
10:00 PM Pacific at San Francisco