Michael Periatt / Asst. sports editor
A second shot to stop one team; that’s what Ohio State is facing Saturday when it plays Kansas in the Final Four.
The rematch will take one of the teams closer to their goal of being a national champion, but don’t bother tallying up statistics to try to calculate whether OSU can or will proceed to the national title game.
The trip is the first for the Buckeyes since 2007. Also advancing to the Final Four are Louisville and Kentucky, who will play at about 6 p.m. Saturday.
After defeating the NCAA Tournament East Region’s No. 1-seed Syracuse, OSU’s confidence has grown. They are connected on defense, although the offense seems to struggle at times.
It’s an ongoing storyline for the Buckeyes, never knowing which player will get hot at the right time.
For instance, OSU sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. went off with 18 points in the win against Syracuse, and trailed only sophomore forward Jared Sullinger, who had 19 points, against the Orange.
Senior guard William Buford was quiet for stretches of the contest.
Meanwhile in the Midwest Region, Kansas defeated North Carolina, 80-67. The Jayhawks finished strong as senior guard Tyshawn Taylor finished with 22 points while junior forward Thomas Robinson, the Big 12 Player of the Year, tallied 18. With all the momentum you can possibly have on your side after winning a regional final in the NCAA Tournament, Kansas has proven it has the total package as it looks to knock down OSU for the second time this year.
The last time these two teams met, OSU was been without big man Sullinger and Robinson was on fire, scoring a career-high 21 points. The Buckeyes were defeated, 78-67.
So, what exactly does OSU have to do?
Buford has to shoot higher than 1-of-5 at the arc like he did against Syracuse and be the senior leader people expect him to be.
But statistics don’t always tell the story, especially in the Final Four.
How the teams push through adversity Saturday is what will set these two highly competitive teams apart.
I think OSU will come out strong mentally and physically to make it to the last man standing.
The stat lines and box scores are diminished at this point in the season.
The injuries and the season’s ups and downs go out the window.
It’s about who wants it more and who comes ready to fight to the very last second at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Saturday with about 74,400 people cheering the players on.
This is the Final Four.
Here we go.