When the Ohio State Buckeyes met the Kansas Jayhawks earlier in the season, they didn't fare well. Kansas shot a spectacular 58 percent from the floor in a 78-67 win. Unlike the Final Four meeting between the two teams, that game was at Allen Fieldhouse, not at a neutral site. Also unlike that game, Ohio State will have all of their key players.
Three players in particular will be in the spotlight for Ohio State, though there's one that sticks out.
Sullinger was the one key player that Ohio State did not have when they first met Kansas, and it showed. Thomas Robinson scored 21 points on 7-9 shooting for the Jayhawks and was the team's co-leading rebounder with seven boards. Ohio State lost the rebounding battle in that game and had zero blocks.
With Sullinger on the floor, things should be a bit different. At 6'8", 265 pounds, he's easily the best-equipped player to defend Robinson. On the other end of the floor, he might be guarded by Jeff Withey, provided that Kansas doesn't decide to bust out their triangle and two defense again.
Sullinger is an immovable object on the low block and has some fantastic low-post moves. He hasn't had a dominant season, but he's a terrific low-post scorer and Ohio State will probably look to get the ball in his hands on a regular basis. He's been criticized for lacking the size and athletic ability to be a star in the NBA, but Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey aren't athletic freaks to the degree that they can slow down Sullinger on that aspect of their games alone.
Thomas has quietly been one of the best players in this NCAA tournament. He has the ability to score inside and out, and he should test Thomas Robinson's range as a defender. Late in this season and in the NCAA tournament, Thomas has improved his rebounding numbers significantly, and he was a major threat from three-point range in the Gonzaga and Cincinnati games.
Even though Thomas doesn't have an elite outside shot, elite size or elite quickness, he's very solid all-around and he presents matchup problems for everyone.
Buford's length, build, lateral quickness, work ethic and intelligence make him a top-end perimeter defender at the college level, and his defense has been what has made the biggest impact for Ohio State in this NCAA tournament. He's an excellent three-point shooter, but he only attempted two threes against Cincinnati, while he wasn't terribly effective from behind the arc against Gonzaga or Syracuse.
Buford's biggest offensive impact in the three games where he had significant scoring performances -- he only recorded four points against Cincinnati -- has been in his ability to get to the free throw line. Even when Buford isn't hitting shots, he finds a way to make a serious impact for his team by getting to the line, finding his teammates and working hard on the other end.