Healthy Jared Sullinger would have made game different, but not necessarily outcome.

As a Jayhawk fan now living in Columbus, Ohio I have been looking forward to the Kansas vs Ohio St. basketball game for quite some time.  And like any true fan, I wanted both teams to be at full strength for this match-up.  So when it was announced a couple hours before tip-off that Buckeye All-American Jared Sullinger would not play due to back spasms, I was naturally very disappointed.

Kansas won a hard fought game by a score of 78-67.   Moments after the final buzzer sounded I heard from several of my Buckeye friends with the “we would have won with Sullinger”.

Well…maybe.  But maybe not.  You can’t just plug in Sullinger’s 19 point average and say the Buckeyes would have won by 8.  It doesn’t work that way.  How many times have you seen a team lose its best player and everybody else steps it up a notch.  That’s what happened for the Buckeyes today.  In the first half it was Deshaun Thomas scoring 15 points.  In the second half William Buford stepped it up with 17 of his 21 points.  Would they have scored those points with Sullinger in there?  Nobody knows.

The Buckeyes also allowed the Jayhawks to shoot 9 of 17 from 3-point range.  More than likely Sullinger would not have been defending any of those shots.  The Buckeyes shot only 5 of 17 from 3-point range.  Obviously without Sullinger in the line-up, the Jayhawks were able to ramp up their perimeter defense.  Ohio State outrebounded Kansas 12 to 5 on the offensive glass without Sullinger.  That’s a pretty big edge that likely would not have been increased if Sullinger had played.

The bottom line is we’ll never know what would have happened had Sullinger been able to play.  But to say the Buckeyes definitely would have won is just shortsighted.  Maybe we’ll get an answer sometime in March.

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