After three impressive blowout wins over quality opponents, Kansas will get their first real road test of the year Saturday afternoon in Columbus, OH, when they meet the Ohio State Buckeyes in a rematch of not one but two battles, including an epic one in last year’s Final Four.
Both games were won by the Jayhawks and have no mistake that revenge will be on the mind of the Buckeyes, who have a bit of a different look to them this year.
“It’ll be good for us to go up there and see how tight our huddle is, see if we can focus and see if we can spend the energy in the building in our favor and find out how tough we are,” coach Bill Self said after Tuesday night’s win over Richmond. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Like Kansas (9-1), they lost a key big man this year in Jared Sullinger, like Thomas Robinson for the Jayhawks, he was the main guy a year ago. However, in the first meeting, a 78-67 KU victory, Sullinger sat with an injury.
Today in Columbus, Ohio State (9-1) bring firepower along the perimeter and on the guard line.
Forward Deshaun Thomas averages just over 20 points per game and promises to be a load, but the pilot of the ship has to be guard Aaron Craft, who leads the team in assists and is second in steals.
The Jayhawks will combat this with their experience, led by seniors Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford, along with senior Jeff Withey, who may be the nation’s premiere defender.
The game could also be a breakout for guard Ben McLemore, who will play before a CBS audience for the first time. McLemore possess the ability to be a game changer and also make the nation see what makes this year’s Kansas team potentially so dangerous.
Having to sit out a year ago, he now has the chance to lead Kansas to extraordinary heights and a big game under the national spotlight could send a message to the rest of college basketball about the Jayhawks potential.
Though it’s December basketball game, it’s a top 10 matchup between national powers and a great litmus test for Kansas, who gets to see how their focus is in a road environment off the court and on the court, where everyone will be against them. Opportunities like this are what make early season college basketball fun.
“Now we’ll find out how good we are,” Self said. “Let’s be serious: The season starts Saturday.”