Final Four: Will Kentucky and Kansas emerge victorious? (+video)
The NCAA Final Four takes place Saturday evening in New Orleans. Louisville plays Kentucky, followed by Kansas and Ohio State. Kentucky and Kansas are favored to win. Both Final Four games will be televised by CBS.
The remaining four teams in the 2012 NCAA tournament – Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State – have emerged as one of the strongest Final Four fields in recent years. In speed and athleticism, attention to fundamentals and stinginess on defense, these teams have not only thrived, but have seemingly improved throughout this month-long annual battle of attrition. After Saturday night’s games in New Orleans, the field will be narrowed to two teams, who will play Monday night for the national championship.Skip to next paragraph
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Ohio State vs. Kansas
In Saturday’s East region final in Boston, the absence of Fab Melo finally caught up with Syracuse, as Ohio State defeated the Orange 77-70. Forward Deshaun Thomas scored 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds for Ohio State (31-7). Thomas has been a tower of offensive power for the Buckeyes all tournament, averaging 22 points in their four games. In the process, Thomas has exhibited extraordinary versatility, as he’s been able to score both in the post with jump hooks as well as from beyond the three-point arc. This has come as a great relief to the Buckeyes’ other strong forward, Jared Sullinger, who has been the team’s most prolific and powerful scorer all season, averaging nearly 18 points per game.
Kansas, demonstrating great improvement from its opening-round scare against 15th-seeded Detroit, defeated North Carolina 80-67 last Sunday in the Midwest regional final in St. Louis. The Tar Heels, who finished 32-6 on the season, were missing standout guard Kendall Marshall. Winner of the 2012 Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award, Marshall injured his wrist in the Tar Heels’ overtime win over Ohio in their Sweet 16 game last Friday. Marshall, who had over 300 assists on the year, was in many ways UNC’s catalyst and playmaker. North Carolina was also without the services of outstanding forward John Henson, due to wrist and ankle injuries. Kansas has now won 24 of its last 27 games and, with this victory, are 5-1 when seeded lower than another team in the Elite Eight.
Kansas vs. Ohio State (Saturday, 8:49 p.m.) is an explosive pairing and will feature the Jayhawks’ strong forward, junior Thomas Robinson. Robinson averaged a double-double during the season, notching 17 points and 12 rebounds per game. They also have a superbly talented point guard in senior Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor averages nearly 17 points per game, five assists and has a pair of lightning hands that steal the ball with almost monotonous regularity. Pairing Sullinger with Robinson should be intriguing, as well as Taylor against the Buckeyes’ elite guard, William Buford, the latter averaging nearly 15 points per game. Thomas and Sullinger will also be kept busy with Kansas center Jeff Withey, who adds considerably to the Jayhawks' inside game and at seven-feet tall, will make the Buckeyes’ life miserable on both the offensive and defensive boards.