Sullinger, Thomas are keys to Buckeyes breaking through Syracuse zone

Mar 22, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes players including Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (32) , Aaron Craft (4) , Shannon Scott (3) , Jared Sullinger (right) , and Deshaun Thomas huddle in the second half of the semifinals in the east region of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament against the Cincinnati Bearcats at TD Garden. Ohio State won 81-66. Mandatory Credit: Michael Ivins-US PRESSWIRE

BOSTON - Leading up to tonight's much anticipated East Regional Final between the Syracuse and Ohio State, it's clear what's driving the discussion.

Rarely this season has the focus been about how the Orange would fare and adjust to an opponent's offensive or defensive approach, but rather how their opponent would handle the vaunted zone.

Jim Boeheim's team has been the favorites in every game leading up to tonight (note: tonight is the first game all season where ‘Cuse is the Vegas underdog, as they're currently +2.5 against Ohio State), so they get the benefit of the doubt in most cases as the team that will win if they just play their game.

So for tonight, it's not really about how a Fab Melo-less Orange team can limit the production of a Jared Sullinger. It's not about if Syracuse's ball-handlers can playmake when defended by Aaron Craft.

No, the questions being asked to handicap this match-up is if the Buckeyes, specifically Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas, can effectively score against the 2-3.

"We haven't seen a ton of zone for a steady diet," said Thad Matta. "And Syracuse's is different because they play it more obviously frequently."

Read the rest of this article on NBCSports.com


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