They may not be 77 miles apart (Louisville and Kentucky blah blah blah), and they might not have as scintallating a storyline, but Saturday’s latter clash, between the two No. 2 seeds that didn’t get upset, is the more watch-worthy matchup. It’ll be worth your Saturday evening, and I’ll tell you why.
The venue: New Orleans’ Mercedez Benz Superdome should be familiar to Jayhawks fans despite its new name. In fact, the Jayhawks have quite a history in New Orleans. Roy Williams led No. 2 Kansas to the Final Four here in 2003 and proceeded to rout third-seeded Marquette, 94-61, in the fourth largest Final Four blowout in Tounament history. Then they lost to Syracuse in the finals.
KU also played NCAA tournament games at the variously-named Superdome in 1999, 1993 and 1981. They’re 2-4 here all-time, if you like that kind of stuff. I don’t think Ohio State has ever played a (basketball) game at the Superdome.
The important stuff: New Orleans is comfortably far from Lawrence, Kansas and Columbus, Ohio; It’s nice and neutral, and not a weird time zone for either. Perfect.
The coaches: One of this matchup’s great storylines is the coaching involved.
Bill Self and Thad Matta both have been coaching in some capacity at the D-I level for over 20 years, both have north of 300 wins as a head coach (Self is 26 wins away from 500), both have now reached the Final Four twice, and both are handsomely compensated for their efforts.
If I were CNBC’s Darren Rovell I’d probably tell you that Bill Self will make $1,093 for every point the Jayhawks have scored so far this season (bonuses and taxes aside), while Thad Matta slaved in Columbus to earn $877 per point.
11 numbers that matter:
0 The jersey number of both stars Jared Sullinger and Thomas Robinson.
0.017 Stay with me here. This is the adjusted efficiency margin margin for these two teams. Essentially, it’s a way of showing how very similarly efficient these teams are at scoring and defending. Ohio’s State’s adjusted efficiency margin (+0.316) is 0.017 points better than Kansas’ adjusted efficiency margin (+0.299).
2 Ohio State returned this many more starters (Sullinger, William Buford, Aaron Craft) from last season’s short NCAA run than Kansas returned from their postseason run to the Elite Eight (Tyshawn Taylor).
2.5 The line. Which favors Ohio State.
6 That’s how many steals Ohio State sophomore starter Aaron Craft recorded against Cincinnati in the round of 16. The Bearcats rank 15th nationally in turnover percentage.
20 Kansas’ 7-0 junior big man Jeff Withey blocked this many shots in just the NCAA tournament so far, including 10 against N.C. State. He’s leads the nation in block rate with a shot-block in 15.1 percent of his chances. At 6-9 Sullinger is the closest matchup from the Buckeys, who’ll stuggle to find an answer for Withey’s size in the paint. So far OU has been out-blocked 21-16 in the tournament.
20.1% Three-pointers account for this much of Ohio State’s offense, a number that ranks 325th nationally, down from 30.0 percent last season. The loss of Jon Diebler’s felonious beyond the arc numbers (114 of 227!) are mostly to blame here. OU hits just 33.2 percent from range, making them the worst three-point shooting team that Matta has ever coached.
30.9% So far this season when Kansas’ Thomas Robinson has been on the floor, he has grabbed a defensive rebound in 30.9 percent of opponents’ possession. That’s the best mark in the nation. Even Sullinger (24.2%) isn’t close.
52 Years since Ohio State last won an NCAA Tournament title.
53.3% Both teams have sunk 2-point field goals at exactly this same rate over the course of the season. Sullinger leads with 382 shots from here for OU, and but Robinson is more purely focused on twos with 468 tries.
60% Amount by which Pomeroy’s system favors Ohio State to take the win.