In the other semifinal, Sullinger got what he wanted when he decided to return to Ohio State for his sophomore year _ a trip to the Final Four. The Buckeyes are early 2.5-point picks over Kansas in the matchup of No. 2 seeds.
They finished in a three-way tie for first in the Big Ten, widely viewed as the toughest conference in basketball this year, but settled for a No. 2 seed in the NCAAs after losing the conference tournament final to Michigan State. It wasn’t the first or last time critics underestimated Thad Matta’s team this season.
“People were asking, are we mentally tough enough, are we physically tough enough, can we do this, can we do that?” Sullinger said. “I relayed those questions back to the team. We did some soul searching, and now we’ve taken this to a whole other level.”
Sullinger scored 19 points Saturday in Ohio State’s 77-70 win over Syracuse to make the Final Four.
Tyshawn Taylor scored 22 points Sunday in an 80-67 win over North Carolina to lock in the matchup against the Buckeyes. The Jayhawks reached the Final Four for the first time since 2008, when they won it all after rallying from nine points late in the title game to beat Memphis (and Calipari, before he moved to Kentucky) in overtime.
Taylor finished with 13 assists in the Dec. 10 game against Ohio State despite playing with an ailing knee.
The Buckeyes, meanwhile, had to do without Sullinger. Playing their first road game of the season, they lost by 11 to drop to 8-1.
Seems like quite a long time ago.
“We caught a break the first time when Jared didn’t play, and we were kind of finding ourselves,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “We knew they were a team that could make a run and win a national championship. They have so many pieces that are so good. It starts with Jared.”
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