|OHIO STATE’S JARED SULLINGER||KANSAS’ THOMAS ROBINSON|
Ohio State. Or more precisely, The Ohio State University as Buckeyes faithful are wont to call their school. Famous for George Steinbrenner, Richard Lewis, Bruce Vilanch, John Havlicek and Bob Knight, among others.
Indeed, Ohio State is more than a football factory, even one that has fallen under scrutiny and eager for a rebound with the Urban legend, coach Meyer.
In fact, the Buckeyes’ Final Four appearance is due in large part to 6-foot-9 sophomore Jared Sullinger – literally, the big man on campus, regardless of the sport.
On Friday, the Buckeyes were on the Superdome floor for an open practice – a glorified shoot-around, a chance for the fans to see the teams before the lights come on Saturday night. It wasn’t hard to find Sullinger – he’s the second-tallest player on the Ohio State roster – and afterward he was an easy target for fans.
As Sullinger walked toward the locker room, kids were stretching their arms, offering a piece of paper, a cap, a program for Sullinger to autograph. Sure, other players also were asked for their John Hancock, but it was Sullinger who was the Pied Piper of the Buckeyes.
He’s the center of the Ohio State charge, leading the team in scoring (17.6 ppg) and rebounding (9.1 pg). Would it surprise you to know that Sullinger also tops the Buckeyes in 3-point shooting percentage (.421 – albeit merely 16 of 38)?
In the NCAA tournament, Sullinger is averaging 18 points and eight rebounds per game. And yet he’s not the go-to guy; Sullinger is third on the team in shots. Senior guard William Buford is the 3-point hawk. Sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas is the heir apparent.
Sullinger is not flashy; his performances are rock-steady, not a bar graph of the Dow Jones. Coach Thad Matta knows what to expect night in, night out from No. 0. Ultimately, Sullinger’s body of work is what gets him recognized as a consensus All-America selection.
Don’t expect to see a lot of chest pounding from Sullinger, or slamming the ball through the hoop punctuated by a primal scream. There’s a bigger picture in play – one that embraces the history of Ohio State, one that can come into focus in the wake of competing for the national championship.
Against Kansas, Sullinger is going to score, he’s going to rebound, he’s going to defend. In short, Sullinger is going to do all the things that make him a difference-maker.
– Duane Cross, NCAA.com
If college basketball handed out a sixth man of the year award like their NBA brethren, Kansas’ Thomas Robinson likely would have won it last season.
Everyone knows the personal tragedies that the junior endured – losing his grandmother, grandfather and mother in a span of days during the season. That can take a toll on any human being. Even the strongest of strong. Let alone a college kid.
But Robinson has done more than just rebound from those tragedies. The 6-10 forward took one giant leap from sixth man to star of one of the best college basketball programs in the nation in 2011-12.
Many people have asked Kansas head coach Bill Self how the Jayhawks have made it to New Orleans. Especially when you consider they lost six players from last year’s team, including the Morris twins.
Markieff and Marcus Morris leaving for the NBA paved the way for Robinson to explode and become the Jayhawks’ most important player.
He’s not just a flashy scorer.
Yes he leads the team with 17.9 points per game, but perhaps even more important are his 11.8 rebounds per game – second in the nation. Robinson has 26 double doubles in 37 games, which leads the nation and is the most in Kansas single-season history.
Do that, and you’re going to see a lot of accolades.
Among them: The only unanimous AP All-American, Big 12 Player of the Year, and multiple National Player of the Year awards.
All of this from a guy who averaged only 14.6 minutes per game a season ago.
“It’s not official yet. But if he’s a first-team All-American, he’s going to get his number hung in the rafters. And he’s going to be a lottery pick,” Self said. “Those are pretty proud moments considering where he came from as a recruited athlete, all the stuff he’s endured as a man and how far he’s he progressed in both (respects).”
So while Tyshawn Taylor has scored 20 or more points in four of his last eight games, and Jeff Withey was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year after breaking the Kansas single-season blocks record with 129, it’s Robinson who is this team’s rock.
The first time Kansas faced Ohio State this season back in early December; Robinson went 7 for 9 from the field and scored 21 points in a Jayhawks victory.
To move on to Monday night at the Superdome, Self and the Jayhawks will need something like it again.
– Douglas Kroll, NCAA.com