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Defense Is Key For Kansas Getting Past Ohio State

The last time the Kansas Jayhawks played the Ohio St. Buckeyes it was Kansas who got the win in part to Ohio State not having star player Jared Sullinger in the lineup. This time around Kansas is a 2.5 point underdog with Ohio State at full strength. While Ohio State does have many offensive weapons like Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas, Kansas has great defensive front court in Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson who could be the difference.

Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn goes beyond pointing out the obvious that Kansas is better with Robinson and Withey on the court at the same time, but he breaks down the win over North Carolina which featured 70 possessions. The difference is huge when the two play on the court at the same time:

On the 35 Robinson-Withey possessions, the Tar Heels averaged 0.74 points per possession.

On the other 35 possessions, UNC averaged 1.17 PPP. To put this in context: Had Carolina's offense played the entire game at its Withey-Robinson rate, it would have scored just 52 points. Had Carolina's offense played the entire game at its other rate, it would have scored 82 points.

To put it in a different context: Against the Withey-Robinson combo, Carolina's offense scored at a Towson-like level. As in, a worst-in-Division-I level. When Carolina's offense faced just one of KU's two posts, it scored at a Kentucky-like level. As in, a second-best-in-D-I level.

A single game sample is not very accurate in predicting success, but Winn scoured through more data and discovered that when Withey and Robinson are on the court together Kansas' efficiency margin is at .24 which is double what it is when the two are not on the court together.

Winn points out that efficiency rate is worthy of a title contender:

The point is that if the Jayhawks can find a way to milk a few more possessions than average - even just 5-10 - out of the Robinson-Withey lineup, it would significantly increase their odds of knocking off Ohio State. And if they were to similarly lean on that lineup against (most likely) Kentucky in the title game, they might have a chance of pulling off that upset, too.

For more on the Final Four match-up between the Jayhawks and Buckeyes, check out SB Nation Kansas City, SB Nation's college basketball page and this StoryStream. For team news and info, head over to Rock Chalk Talk and Along The Olentangy.

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