Ohio State coach Thad Matta’s doing his best to give Kansas the impression All-America center Jared Sullinger won’t play Saturday when the No. 2 Buckeyes travel to No. 13 Kansas.
The 6-9 sophomore missed last weekend’s game against Texas Pan-American and hasn’t practiced all week due to back spasms. Matta played it cool on Thursday.
“He just told me he feels great. That was three minutes or five minutes ago,” Matta said. “He said he woke up and was dancing this morning — but I don’t know what that entails.”
Jayhawks coach Bill Self isn’t buying it.
“If I were a betting man, I’d say Thad’s not a very good poker player, because I think that he’ll probably play,” he said.
I’m with Bill. (Besides, it’ll save him this epic rant.)
Sullinger averages a team-high 19.1 points and 10.3 rebounds a game, does it at an incredibly efficient rate and by using a high percentage of his team’s possessions. He wasn’t needed against the Broncs for obvious reasons. Kansas is a different story.
First off, there’s Thomas Robinson, the 6-9, 240-pounds power forward who can match Sullinger physically. Then there’s the Jayhawks’ defense, which is the most formidable the Buckeyes will have faced this season. They keep teams off the offensive glass, don’t allow many open looks and can harass guards. (It should be noted that Ohio State’s defense is better.)
And without Sullinger to attract all that defensive attention, things become vastly more difficult for the Buckeyes, even with capable scorers like Deshaun Thomas, and William Buford. Matta downplayed the notion of Ohio State going off its normal gameplan too much.
“We’ve had some time this week to put some things in that we’ve been talking about doing anyway,” he said. “But to reinvent the wheel, we’re not going to do that. But I like the progress we’ve made this week with some of the things that we’ve added.”
Odds are, Sullinger plays. And odds are, that plays in Ohio State’s favor.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
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