National Semi-Final, Saturday, March 31
(2) Ohio State (31-7) vs. (2) Kansas (31-6), 8:49 pm EDT - The second game of the Final Four is likely to be a battle down to the final buzzer, as both Kansas and Ohio State have done everything needed to reach the penultimate game of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
The Buckeyes, headed by coach Thad Motta, with a career coaching record of 323–95 (.773) and 221–64 (.775) at Ohio State, will be coaching in his second Final Four game, after getting Butler, Xavier and the Buckeyes into the tournament eight times, reaching the championship game in 2007, when they lost, 84-75, to the Florida Gators.
For Kansas, coach Bill Self has distinguished himself as one of the nation's finest coaches, having taken over the KU program from Roy Williams following the 2002-03 season. In his nine years at Kansas, Self has produced an outstanding record of 268–52 (.838), having won the national championship with the Jayhawks in 2007-08. He has a career mark of 475–157 (.752).
On the court, battles will rage in both the front and back courts, as these two teams are about as evenly matched as any contest in the tournament.
Up front, the Buckeyes feature the burly Jared Sullinger, a strong scorer in the paint and a ferocious rebounder, who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding at 17.6 points and 9.3 boards per game. Aside him will be 6'7" sophomore, Deshaun Thomas, who has flourished in Motta's free-flowing system. Thomas, a big time scoring threat is dangerous from just about anywhere on the court, but his best forte may be from the seven to ten foot range, where he can either nail jumpers or back opponents into the paint.
The back court battle will be vied by the two point guards - Ohio State's Aaron Craft and Kansas specialist Tyshawn Taylor. Craft, more of a defensive specialist, will be on curt for almost the entire duration, trying to stay in front of Taylor, who is a slick dribbler and excellent finisher at the rim.
Role players will be vital to each team. For the Buckeyes, William Buford is the best pure shooter of the starters, and he will be joined by Lenzelle Smith Jr. a slasher with good inside moves and a nice shooting touch.
Opposing them for Kansas, Elijah Johnson will be a key player, as he has been throughout the tourney, providing key baskets at critical moments. He's very much like Smith, though probably has more offensive potential than his Ohio State foe. Travis Releford doesn't do much scoring, but he's a capable passer and strong rebounder for the Jayhawks.
Another player to watch is Ohio State's Even Ravenel, who has performed quite well when spelling either Sullinger or Thomas.
For an idea of how close this match-up is, the statistics tell the story. Ohio State is 35th nationally in scoring at 75.1 points per contest, 57th in rebounding, at 36.8 and 12th in the nation in field goal percentage, stroing it at a .486 clip. The Jayhawks are 36th in scoring (75.0), 54th in rebounding (36.9) and shoot a field goal percentage of .485, 14th nationally.
Las Vegas has installed the Buckeyes as a 2 1/2 point favorite, but this one is really up for grabs.