Comparing the teams: How Kentucky and Ohio State match up

March 25, 2011 

POINT GUARD

Technically, Aaron Craft comes off the bench for Ohio State. But when you're named the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year and make the league's all-defensive team, you're a starter for all practical purposes. That makes Aaron Craft-Brandon Knight a competition between talented and highly decorated freshmen. Knight was named All-SEC and the league's freshman of the year. Craft might have been the Big Ten Freshman of the Year had it not been for teammate Jared Sullinger. Craft has a better assist-to-turnover ratio (175-78 to Knight's 146-108). Knight is the more prolific three-point shooter (78 treys to Craft's 26). Craft has more steals: 69-19.

Advantage: Ohio State; Craft is Affirmed to Knight's Alydar.

SHOOTING GUARD

Since turning his ankle against Alabama in the SEC Tournament, Doron Lamb has made only seven of 18 shots (one of six from three-point range). Even with that slip, he's Kentucky's most accurate three-point shooter (46.9 percent). Better news for UK, he said the ankle felt fine. Jon Diebler is the Big Ten career leader in three-pointers with 370 ... and counting. This season, he's made exactly half of his 220 attempts from beyond the arc. He's scored 1,520 career points. Diebler also comes into the game on what would seem to be a hot streak. He made eight of 16 three-point shots in Ohio State's first two NCAA Tournament games. He's made more than one three-pointer in 10 of the last 11 games, including 10 at Penn State.

Advantage: Ohio State

SMALL FORWARD

Until the West Virginia game, Darius Miller was UK's hottest offensive player. He had scored double-digit points in 10 straight games, making 57 of 96 shots (22 of 46 three-point attempts) in that span. UK Coach John Calipari has repeatedly touted Miller as good enough to be considered among the best players in the SEC, perhaps as a way to spur Miller to greater heights. While Miller was named MVP of the SEC Tournament, William Buford was named to the All-Big Ten Tournament team. He averaged 13.7 points in three games. In two NCAA Tournament games, he made 14 of 26 shots (seven of 12 from three-point range). He joins Jon Diebler and David Lighty as career 1,000-point scorers.

Advantage: Ohio State

POWER FORWARD

Terrence Jones has 3 inches and a much-higher NBA profile over David Lighty. Lighty can counter with much more experience. Jones was the SEC Freshman of the Year. Lighty was a member of the Big Ten's all-defensive team. Jones has posted 12 double-doubles, which ties Chris Mills for the second-most by a UK freshman. DeMarcus Cousins had 20 last season. Lighty is coming off a remarkable shooting performance in which he made all seven of his three-point attempts in a 25-point game against George Mason in his hometown of Cleveland.

Advantage: Ohio State; Lighty is Blame to Jones' Zenyatta.

CENTER

Josh Harrellson has been Kentucky's success story of the year. An ugly duckling who played 15 total minutes in 19 games against SEC teams last year became the beautiful swan who made the All-SEC Tournament team. In the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, he made 14 of 18 shots, averaged 15 points (second on the team) and a team-high nine rebounds. Though impressive, that pales next to Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, who has posted 14 double-doubles and failed to score double-digit points only once since Dec. 21. The Sporting News named Sullinger its National Freshman of the Year, and the United States Basketball Writers Association put him on its All-America team.

Advantage: Ohio State

BENCH

DeAndre Liggins' versatility as a defender strengthens a Kentucky bench that has only one player (Liggins) as a reliable contributor. Because Liggins can defend positions from point guard to power forward, he extends UK's bench. In the last three games, Eloy Vargas has scored four points and grabbed seven rebounds in 17 minutes. Ohio State's Dallas Lauderdale has started every game, but he plays like a reserve, averaging 16.4 minutes. He was named to the Big Ten's all-defensive team in 2009-10. His 54 blocks would rank second on UK's team. At 6-8, 255, he gives the Buckeyes more presence around the basket. Ohio State isn't the deepest team with freshman Deshaun Thomas (7.7 ppg) the only other Buckeye averaging double-digit minutes.

Advantage: Ohio State

INTANGIBLES

Ohio State carries the burden of the No. 1 overall seed and the aura of inevitability. Having made 28 three-pointers against inferior competition in the first two NCAA Tournament games, now the Buckeyes get a dose of defense Kentucky style. Can OSU match Kentucky's expected zeal? UK is playing with house money having won the SEC Tournament and then shown its post-season mettle in victories over Princeton and West Virginia. Former UK coach Rick Pitino picked the Cats to upset Ohio State.

Advantage: Kentucky

Jerry Tipton can be reached at jtipton@herald-leader.com.

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