- Joe Lunardi, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
If you think back to the start of the season, we thought there were three elite teams in college basketball: the North Carolina Tar Heels, Kentucky Wildcats and Ohio State Buckeyes (generally in that order). All were projected No. 1 seeds. Each was considered a legitimate national championship contender.
Obviously, Kentucky has been and remains the nation's most dominant team. North Carolina peaked a little bit later, then saw its hopes effectively dashed when Kendall Marshall's wrist bent the wrong way in Greensboro.
Well below the radar for much of the season was Ohio State. The Buckeyes (31-7) would display occasional bursts of brilliance, but never enough to steal the spotlight away from other highly ranked teams, including those in their own conference.
Individually, star center Jared Sullinger was considered a bit of an underachiever. Instead of rolling to national Player of the Year honors, Sullinger couldn't get past Michigan State's Draymond Green as Big Ten player of the year. Some even questioned his return for a second season at the college level.
But a funny thing happened on the way to obscurity. The Buckeyes began playing their best basketball when it mattered most. They have won eight of nine, losing only by four to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. They've been even more impressive in the NCAA tournament, enjoying life as front-runners through the bulk of their four victories.
As it turns out, the difference between 2012 Ohio State (No. 2 seed, East region) and 2011 Ohio State (No. 1 overall seed) isn't all that much. The current Buckeyes aren't quite as explosive offensively, but they make up for it with a more consistent defensive presence. That and a late-season chip on the shoulder makes game-planning for Ohio State a seriously difficult task. If the Kansas Jayhawks are going to beat the Buckeyes, here's how they must do it: