Kansas at Ohio State (-5, 139)
A big-time showdown is on tap Saturday when No. 8 Kansas visits No. 7 Ohio State in a rematch of last season’s Final Four contest won by the Jayhawks. Both teams are powerful again despite losing a stellar inside player – Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson – from the teams that met twice last season. The Jayhawks won both of last season’s meetings and bring an eight-game winning streak into Saturday’s tilt. Coach Bill Self views the trip to Columbus as a major gauge for his squad despite winning the last three games by an average of 31 points. “Let’s be serious – the season starts Saturday,” Self said. “Now we can go up there and hopefully take a real enthusiastic team up there, hunker down, see how tough we are and find out a lot about ourselves.” Ohio State has won five straight games and has won 39 consecutive home non-conference games after posting a 10-point win over Winthrop on Dec. 18.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, CBS.
ABOUT KANSAS (9-1): Center Jeff Withey blocked seven shots in last season’s national semifinal and leads the nation with 54 rejections (5.4 per game). His offensive game has improved and his 17-point, 13-rebound outing against Richmond on Dec. 18 was his fourth double-double of the campaign. Withey is averaging 14.1 points and 8.1 rebounds and shooting 59.3 percent from the field. Freshman guard Ben McLemore is averaging a team-leading 15.9 points and senior guard Travis Releford is averaging 13 points while shooting 58 percent from the field. Senior point guard Elijah Johnson is averaging 9.6 points and 5.3 assists. The contest marks the Jayhawks’ first true road game of the season. “I’ve been to (Ohio State’s) building three times when I was at Illinois,” Self said. “It’s a good building. It will be juiced and ready.” Kansas’ only loss was to Michigan State on a neutral court in Atlanta.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (9-1): The Buckeyes have an average winning margin of 25.8 points since losing to Duke on Nov. 28 but the 65-55 victory over Winthrop smacked of a team looking ahead to its next game. Ohio State didn’t put the game away until late and junior forward Deshaun Thomas (21 points on 7-of-21 shooting) admitted after the game that the Buckeyes took Winthrop lightly. Junior guard Aaron Craft was highly displeased with the showing. “If we need a wake-up call for our upcoming game this weekend then we shouldn’t be playing at all,” Craft said. “Every team we play, we take it one game at a time. If we are not sure we are ready to play Kansas with what’s at stake, then we need to reevaluate ourselves as a team.” Thomas leads Ohio State in scoring (20.4) and rebounding (6.9) and junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. averages 11.5 points.
* Over is 4-1 in Jayhawks’ last five overall.
* Home team is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings.
* Buckeyes are 0-4-1 ATS in their last five vs. Big 12 opponents.
* Jayhawks are 3-12 ATS in their last 15 vs. Big Ten foes.
1. Kansas has won the last five meetings and has a 7-3 series edge over the Buckeyes.
2. The Jayhawks haven’t trailed in a game since Nov. 15 against Tennessee-Chattanooga, a span of 293 minutes, 17 seconds.
3. Thomas has five 20-point outings and has scored in double figures in all 10 games.