Final Four Betting Picks: Ohio St Buckeyes vs Kansas Jayhawks

2012 NCAA Tournament National Semifinals
#2 Ohio St Buckeyes vs #2 Kansas Jayhawks
Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans, Louisiana
Saturday, March 31, 2012, 8:49 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Opening Line: Ohio St -2 1/2
Current Line: Ohio St -2 1/2
Opening Total: 136 1/2
Current Total: 136 1/2
Opening Money Line: Ohio St -145 / Kansas +125
Current Money Line: Ohio St -150 / Kansas +130

Ohio St and Kansas meet in the second National Semifinal Saturday in New Orleans. The Buckeyes are a slight favorite.

After mid-majors Butler and VCU crashed the Final Four in the last two years, this year’s quartet is all elite, blue-blood teams. Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio St, and Kansas have a combined 43 Final Four appearances and 13 national titles. Bluegrass rivals Kentucky and Louisville will meet in the first semifinal Saturday in New Orleans. Ohio St and Kansas will follow after the first game. The winners will play for the national title Monday night.

The 31-7 Ohio St Buckeyes, coached by Thad Matta, tied with Michigan St and Michigan for the Big Ten regular season title. The Buckeyes lost to Michigan St in the Big Ten Championship game, a loss that cost the Buckeyes a likely #1 seed out West. As it was Ohio St was given a #2 seed in the East Region. The Buckeyes beat Loyola Maryland 78-59 in the second round and Gonzaga 73-66 in the third round, both in Pittsburgh.

In the East Regionals in Boston, Ohio St beat Cincinnati 81-66 in the semifinals and Syracuse 77-70 in the regional final. Syracuse was playing without starting center Fab Melo who was suspended before the NCAA tournament began. The game was back and forth in the first half and the teams were tied at 29 at halftime. Ohio St looked to have the game in hand with a minute to go with an 8 point lead, but Syracuse cut it to 3 with 37 seconds left. The Orange could get no closer and Ohio St held on for the win. It the tenth time Ohio St advanced to the Final Four. The Buckeyes won their only national title in 1960.

The 31-6 Kansas Jayhawks, coached by Bill Self, won the Big 12 regular season title but were upset by Baylor in the Big 12 semifinals. The Jayhawks were given a #2 seed in the Midwest region. Kansas beat Detroit 65-50 in the second round and Purdue 63-60 in the third round, both in Omaha.

In the Midwest regionals in St. Louis, Kansas beat North Carolina St 63-60 in the semifinals and North Carolina 80-67 in the final. The game was back and forth until about four minutes to go. Kansas was up 68-67 at that point, and the Jayhawks closed the game on a 12-0 run to win. North Carolina was playing without All-American point guard Kendall Marshall who broke his wrist earlier in the tournament.  Kansas has played in 13 Final Fours and has 3 national titles, the last in 2008.

Kansas leads the series 6-3 against Ohio St. This is the first meeting between the schools in the NCAA tournament. Kansas beat Ohio St in Lawrence 78-67 in December. Ohio St superstar forward Jared Sullinger missed the game with a foot injury. Kansas forward Thomas Robinson scored 21 points in that game, and point guard  Tyshawn Taylor had 13 assists. It was the first meeting between the schools since 2000.

Ohio St is outscoring opponents 75-60 this season. Ohio St is 18th in points allowed in the country. The Buckeyes are shooting 48% from the field including 33.2% from 3 point range. OSU is #18 in field goal percentage. Ohio St makes 70.5% of their free throws. The Buckeyes average 37.1 rebounds a game, and has a rebounding margin of +7.7. Ohio St averages 14.7 assists, 11.8 turnovers, 7.2 steals, and 3.1 blocks a game. Buckeye opponents are shooting 40.6% from the field, including 30.5% from 3 point range. Ohio St is forcing 14.8 turnovers a game, and opponents only average 10.1 assists a game.

Ohio St forward Jared Sullinger averages 17.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists,  1.2 steals a game, and 1 block a game. He leads the Buckeyes in scoring, rebounding and blocks. Forward Deshaun Thomas averages 16.1 points and 5.4 rebounds a game. Thomas makes 35.5% of his 3 point shots. Guard William Buford averages 14.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists a game. He is shooting 35.1% from 3 point range.  Point guard Aaron Craft averages 8.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2.5 steals a game. He leads the team in  steals and assists, and is shooting 34.4% from 3 point range.

Kansas is outscoring opponents 74-62 this season. The Jayhawks are shooting 47.6% from the field, including 34.5% from the three point line. Kansas is #21 nationally in field goal percentage. Kansas makes 69.1% of their free throws. Kansas averages 37.6 rebounds a game and has a rebounding margin of +5.6. The Jayhawks average 15.3 assists, 13 turnovers, 7.4 steals, and 5.7 blocks a game. Kansas opponents are shooting 38% from the field including 33.7% from 3 point range. Kansas is #4 nationally in opponent’s field goal percentage. The Jayhawks force 13.8 turnovers a game.

Kansas Forward Thomas Robinson averages 17.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, along with 1.1 steals and 1 block a game. He leads the Jayhawks in scoring and rebounding. Robinson is second in the country in rebounding and is a Naismith Award finalist. Tyshawn Taylor averages 16.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists to lead the team, and 1.4 steals a game. He is shooting 38.5% from 3 point range. Elijah Johnson averages 10 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.5 steals a game to lead the team. Jeff Withey averages 9.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks a game to lead the team.   Travis Releford averages 8.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.2 steals a game.  Guard Ben McLemore and forward Jamari Taylor are both ineligible this season.

Kansas is 18-17-1 ATS and the total is 13-21-2 this season. Ohio St is 20-13 ATS and the total is 20-11-2 this season. The Buckeyes are 4-1 ATS in non-conference games, 8-3 as a neutral site favorite, 6-2 against teams with winning records, and overall, 5-2 as a favorite, after a straight up win, and as an NCAA tournament favorite, 2-8 as an NCAA tournament as a favorite of 6.5 points or less, and 0-3-1 against Big 12 teams. The Jayhawks are 2-5 ATS against teams with winning records, 1-3-1 as an underdog of 6.5 points or less, 2-11 against Big Ten teams, 1-6-1 in Saturday games, and 0-4 after a cover.

Sullinger missed the last game against Kansas and Robinson took advantage of that. That game was also in Lawrence. This game will be a different story as both teams are at full strength and it is a neutral court. Some say Kansas is lucky to be here after narrow wins over Purdue and NC State, and North Carolina being without one of their key players. I think Ohio St wins a very close game.

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