It seems that my predictive powers have waned as the tournament has gone on, and I'm left with just one Final Four team in my bracket; and realistically, how many people don't have Kentucky? Still, I'm undeterred and moving forward, confident as ever in my ability to pick the winners in the Final Four, as well as the eventual Champion.
Ohio State versus Kansas seems to be the forgotten matchup due to the enormous in-state rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville, but this promises to be an excellent matchup. Thomas Robinson squaring off against Jared Sullinger should be a great battle and offers a lot of star power to the game. Both players will be lottery picks should they decide to enter the draft, so both are likely looking at their final opportunity to win the National Championship.
Ohio State has looked good so far this tournament. Gonzaga in the Round of 32 has actually been their closest matchup, as the game was tied with under 3 minutes to go. The next two games against Cincinnati and Syracuse respectively, were decent games, but Ohio St. was playing with the lead for the majority of both games. Cincinnati didn't prove to be much of a challenge as Ohio St. pretty much cruised to the Elite Eight. Syracuse was a bit tougher, but Sullinger only played for six minutes in the first half, and 'Cuse could only manage a tie game after 20 minutes of play. The Buckeyes then stormed out of the gates and took a double-digit lead early on in the second half. Syracuse kept fighting back, but Ohio St. did not relinquish the lead.
Kansas, on the other hand, has been challenged in every game thus far. Detroit gave them more of a game than the 15-point margin would indicate, but for a 2-vs.-15 matchup, was not as big of a blowout as might have been expected. But I suppose with only 50 percent of the 2 seeds getting out of the first round this year, Kansas did pretty well. The next three games were different stories. Purdue led Kansas just about wire-to-wire. Robbie Hummel was brilliant, and Kansas was really fortunate to come away with the win. Purdue was the better team for 38 minutes, but the Jayhawks found a way to squeak by. North Carolina St. was another great game, though it was a bit more back and forth. Kansas had a bit less of a challenge than the Purdue game, but still only won by three, holding off a pretty furious push by the Wolfpack. Finally, the North Carolina game was another tight one. The lead changed hands several times. Bill Self made a nice defensive switch in the second half that Carolina struggled with, and in the final few minutes, Kansas was able to pull away. It may have been a different story if Kendall Marshall had played, but the Jayhawks once again did just enough to get the W.
The obvious pick here is Ohio St. They appear to be playing very well, with more convincing victories thus far, and the Buckeyes have a more talented squad. Call it a feeling, but I'm going to take Kansas to win though. Maybe it's partly rooting for Thomas Robinson and his heartfelt story, but I believe Kansas will rise to the occasion. I've felt that Ohio St. has been a bit overrated all year, although I must admit they've been playing great basketball of late. Still, Kansas has battled, and have come through when they needed to, and I believe they have one more game in them.
Prediction: Kansas 74, Ohio St. 72
[Editor's note: John Trifone (@JohnnyT0122) is the author of this post. For his prediction for the other Final Four matchup, click here.]