College Hoops Showdown: #13 Kansas hosts #2 Ohio State

The #13 Kansas Jayhawks (6-2, 4-0 home) get the first shot at upsetting the undefeated and #2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0, 0-0 away) on the road this season, in a huge game taking place from the historic Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas. Bringing in one of the best teams in the country to their home court, no doubt the Jayhawks will be looking to use their home court advantage to walk away with a quality win tonight, and the possible absence of OSU leading scorer Jared Sullinger could very well put the Jayhawks on the right track towards an upset.

The NCAA Freshmen of the Year last season, Jared Sullinger has been the key to the high-scoring, defensively-impressive Buckeyes, and without him in the line-up today for the first game on the road, OSU will have to find ways to generate more offense around a number of players rather than just one stepping in and trying to fill a void. Though it’s not set in stone that Sullinger will or will not play (a good reason to wait until the last possible minute to drop your online sports betting picks for this game), the fact that the 6’9″ forward has continued to suffer from back pain and missed the last game a week ago leaves many questions unanswered leading up to tip-off. Providing 19.1 points of offense and also leading the Buckeyes in rebounding with 10.3 per game, missing Sullinger could give Kansas’ young squad a boost of confidence ahead of game time, as they’ll immediately have a mismatch potential with Sullinger’s likely replacement, 6’8″ junior Evan Ravenel (5.4 points/game), having to counter Jayhawks’ leading scorer Thomas Robinson (17.4 points, 12 rebounds/game). However, in a big game like this between two elite NCAA Hoops teams, it may be fair to say that Sullinger steps up and plays, but the amount of time he’s able to contend against a very good Kansas front court, and the amount of success he’ll have against Thomas Robinson is a very big question that inevitably will factor in to the bottom line for this contest tonight.

Bill Self’s Jayhawks have undoubtedly had the toughest schedule this season of an NCAA team, and their #13 ranking despite two losses certainly backs that up. Dropping games to #1 Kentucky and then-#7 Duke in tournament match-ups, Kansas will be hungry to change their fate against top-ranked teams in this match-up on home court. That starts with getting more players involved in the scoring today though, as Kansas has just two players scoring in double figures for the season (Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor). Though between the two they are putting up 34 points per game and account for 45 percent of Kansas’ scoring, depth will be key tonight against a voracious Ohio State defense, which is only allowing 53.3 points/game to opposing offenses. Adding to that pressure is the fact that Ohio State has dominated opposition in scoring by 29 points per game, and even against top-ranked Duke managed to run away with a 22 point win, albeit on home court. Leading the nation in the turnover margin as well as the assist-to-turnover margin, and ranking in the top ten in just about every other defensive category, OSU’s game plan centers around shutting down the most valuable opposing assets, and smothering defensive play throughout 40 minutes of play. In order for the Jayhawks to contend with OSU tonight, it can’t simply be Taylor and Robinson doing all the leg work; Elijah Johnson (8.6 points, 3.8 assists/game), 7-footer Jeff Withey (8.5 points, 6.3 boards/game), Travis Releford (8.3 points) and Connor Teahan (7.8 points) all need to step up, with at least a couple of players netting double digit scoring along with the two stars of the KU show.

By now, NCAA Basketball fans know that OSU head coach Thad Matta has a special team on his hands with special players all over the court. Between Jared Sullinger, William Buford, Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes have shot lights out this season, but have also been able to focus on containing opposing offenses, creating turnovers, and frustrating leading scores into making mistakes. Shooting 50.9 percent from the floor as a team and ranking 5th in the nation with almost 20 assists per game, moving the ball around quickly to open shooters has been essential to the Buckeyes game plan, and no one as of yet has found a way to stop the movement and slow the scoring at will OSU brings. If Ohio State is allowed to shoot from the perimeter and move the ball inside to Sullinger with ease, this will be a long night for KU fans in the stands. However, with that home court advantage backing them, we fully expect Bill Self’s Jayhawks to be fully prepared for the challenges that lie ahead, and play their best ball of the season in front of a packed Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas knows this is the best shot they have at upsetting a Top-10 team this season, and a good game plan has to start with containing Sullinger first and foremost, but also getting good defensive guard play around the outside, contesting every shot that gets put up. If the Jayhawks can stymie leading 3-pt shooter William Buford with aggressive defending (Buford is knocking down 3’s at a 46.2 percent rate), taking that portion of the OSU off the table, and force some bad shots, Kansas could even the game out by making the match-up a head-to-head battle in the paint, and putting the outcome directly on who has a better game, Sullinger or Robinson.

Sportsbook Betting Lines for #13 Kansas vs. #2 Ohio State

We’re at the sportsbook for today’s top picks on sports in action, and for today’s best NCAA Hoops match-up between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Kansas Jayhawks, it’s fitting that we visit one of the best sportsbooks in the business for wagers on the game. It’s a very tight game on the betting lines with concerns that Jared Sullinger might play, and as such Kansas pulls the lines in tight getting a slight favorite to win at home with -120 odds. However, if Sullinger does play, and plays well, the +100 odds given to OSU as underdogs starts to look very good, as OSU will have a personnel advantage with the more potent scoring offense between the two teams. The caution on OSU comes as no higher ranked team has been on the road against a lesser ranked opponent; While we’ve yet to see a lower ranked team succeed on the road this year against a higher ranked opponent (aside from in tournament play), this game is therefore a guinea pig for what we might expect when two very good teams clash, and the lower-ranked team gets home court advantage. It’s evident that even the bookmakers don’t wish to go too far out on a limb taking one team or another in this match-up, as the points spread sits at just 1 point in favor of the Jayhawks (-110 odds, standard), and despite the teams putting up a combined 157 points per outing so far this year, the 135 points offered on the over/under suggests that it’ll be a defense-first type of outing today between two solid defensive units.

Our Pick to Win:

BREAKING NEWS!!! Jared Sullinger has just been ruled out of tonight’s game. Grab those betting lines, folks, because with 20 points of offense sitting on the bench, the home-team Jayhawks just got an early present, and the betting lines may very well start taking a run towards Kansas ahead of tip-off. With Sullinger, #2 Ohio State would look to be the best candidate for securing a win, even in a tough road environment. However with a huge mismatch now present in the paint, and OSU missing its top scorer and rebounder, the game decisively swings towards KU’s favor. With scoring subdued for OSU, Kansas is able to hold off the Buckeyes this afternoon, winning at Allen Fieldhouse by a score of 75-68, just beating the spread.

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