Thinking Out Loud about Syracuse, Kansas and Rock Chalk Jayhawk
By Brandon Castel
Last weekend was a big one for the Buckeyes, but nothing compared to the one they have coming up.
Ohio State is headed back to the Final Four, thanks to their 77-70 win over No. 1-seed Syracuse on Saturday. That got me thinking about the big win in the Elite Eight, as well as OSU’s Final Four matchup with Kansas.
All that and my thoughts about the “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk” chant OSU fans will quickly come to hate (if they don’t already).
About the win over Syracuse…
1. This was always going to be a tough matchup for Syracuse without Fab Melo. Especially when you consider that the majority of their offense came from Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche and Dion Waiters creating off the bounce.
2. Jardine hit a couple really tough shots with Aaron Craft in his face, but he and Waiters really had trouble finding much room to operate with Craft harassing them up and down the court.
3. Jay Bilas called Craft the best on-ball defender in the tournament, and he has absolutely lived up to that billing. Craft was a menace in the Big Ten during the regular season, but has taken his game to another level in the tournament.
4. After avoiding a single foul in the first half against Syracuse, Craft realized he had five to give in the second half, and he used every one of them to slow down the Orange guards.
5. The fourth foul one was the one Craft was upset with himself over after the game. He said he was trying to feel out how the officials were going to call the game, and thought he had a pretty good handle by that point, but made a carless mistake to pick up that fourth foul.
6. Lenzelle Smith also did a nice job on Waiters, especially considering he couldn’t see out of his right eye for most of the game.
7. Smith said he asked Matta for the challenge of guarding Waiters, but then he took a head butt from Jardine just four minutes into the game. He had to go to the locker room to get four stitches above his right eye, but Smith really showed some toughness by coming back and playing his butt off the rest of the game.
8. He just might be the new X-factor. During the course of this season, both Deshaun Thomas and William Buford have been called the X-factor for Ohio State, but it appears that might now have shifted to Smith.
9. After scoring 10 combined points in Pittsburgh last weekend, Smith had 35 for the Buckeyes in Boston. He was 11-18 from the floor, 6-10 behind the arc and 7-9 from the free throw line. He is also averaging 5.5 rebounds per game in the tournament.
10. Thomas is clearly in a groove right now and teams are taking notice. He is a natural scorer who can get his points from just about anywhere on the court, and it is no longer ‘if” he’s going to score, but how and when.
11. I thought coming in to the tournament that Buford would have to be the X-factor. We knew Thomas, Craft and Jared Sullinger were going to bring it every night, but if Buford could hit a few big shots, it would really make Ohio State a tough out.
12. Matta said teams are still shading Buford, which has given Lenzelle a little more room to work with. Given Buford’s capacity to get hot, and his past history of hitting big shots, teams are going to continue guarding him like he is a dangerous scorer.
12. That should allow Smith to continue getting the looks he has been getting in the tournament.
About the rematch with Kansas…
1. Amir Williams played 15 minutes in the first meeting with Kansas back on Dec. 10. He scored two points, grabbed three rebounds and picked up three fouls at Allen Fieldhouse, as the Buckeyes played without Sullinger.
2. The Syracuse game was the perfect scenario for Amir Williams. Defending the basket against the pick and roll or against driving guards was the perfect setup for Amir, and give him credit, he did extremely well.
3. I thought they should have let Amir play in the second half, even if it meant playing Sullinger and Williams together. Sullinger could have played the high post and let Amir hang near the basket.
4. Thomas could have slid out to the wing, but I guess it’s hard to question Matta after everything he’s done this year. Not their best look offensively, but a huge upgrade against penetrating guards on the defensive end.
5. Keep in mind the 'Cuse big men were no threat to attack down low. It's big men with moves and footwork who have given Amir problems because he is still learning how to stay on his feet and not bite on the pump fake. Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita simply didn’t pose enough of a threat.
6. How incredible is it that we get to see the rematch everyone wanted when Sullinger missed the game in Lawrence earlier this season? I remember thinking at the time how much I would love to see these two teams meet up again in the tournament with a healthy Sullinger.
7. That is the biggest key for Ohio State. Thomas and Smith have been huge in the tournament and Craft is always a game-changer on defense, but having a healthy Sullinger is what has made this a Final Four caliber team.
8. Sullinger revealed to me that he really was battling plantar fasciitis earlier in the year. I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know how debilitating it is, or how long it takes to heal, but it seems like a very painful injury that would be hard to play through.
9. For all the complaining he did about the refs and the media this season, Sullinger has never complained about the injury—even when people were questioning his focus, his energy and his jumping ability.
10. He probably isn’t going to be completely healed from this until after the season, but Sullinger clearly looks healthier than he has been since the Duke game.
11. The extra time between games has given him extra bounce in his step, and he’s doing a much better job getting up an down the court. He’s more aggressive and it’s going to be exciting to watch him match up with Thomas Robinson.
12. The biggest obstacle Sullinger will have to overcome in New Orleans is Kansas center Jeff Withey. The 7-foot junior from San Diego went for 15 and eight in the win over UNC, but his biggest impact comes on the defensive end.
13. Withey recorded 10 blocks in the win over N.C. State, and he also had games with 7, 8 and 9 blocks during the season. He is averaging 3.5 blocks in just 24.4 minutes per game this season, and his size could pose a real problem for Sullinger in the paint.
14. Sullinger will need to use his skill, not his strength against Withey. Sullinger is much more gifted in the game of basketball, and he needs to use his moves and his soft touch to get the looks he wants, rather than trying to challenge Withey straight on.
About Rock Chalk, Jayhawk…
1. Not everyone is going to agree with me here, but I’m a big fan of the Kansas cheer “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.”
2. Obviously, some people are going to find it annoying, but that’s the point of college cheers. You love yours and hate everyone else’s, right?
3. Maybe there are a few exceptions, but in general Ohio State fans love their “O-H-I-O” cheer, while most other fans probably cannot stand it.
4. I find most college cheers to be extremely unoriginal. Whenever I hear Michigan State fans chanting “Go White, Go Green,” I always wonder why they can’t come up with something a little more original.
5. The same goes with “We Are,” “Penn State.” It may not be any better or worse than “O-H-I-O,” but for some reason I can’t understand why Penn State fans feel the need to remind everyone about the name of their University.
6. That’s why I am such a big fan of the Kansas cheer. It was created in 1886 by the university’s science club, but back then it was “Rah, Rah, Jayhawk, Go KU.” That’s not nearly as original as the Rock Chalk part of the cheer, which is what makes it great.
7. "Rock Chalk" is a type of limestone that exists in Kansas. No one knows exactly how it worked its way into the famous cheer, but some claim it came from the geology department, which makes sense to me.
8. Either way, it’s unique to University of Kansas, and it will always be associated with the Jayhawks. It’s also very cool to hear the fans chanting inside Allen Fieldhouse, which happens to be the best college basketball environment I’ve ever been in.
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