141032555 Rising Star: Ohio States Jared Sullinger

(credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

By: Mark Chalifoux

Ohio state center Jared Sullinger had a fantastic start to the tournament and has his Buckeyes poised to take control of the East Region. Syracuse isn’t looking very formidable as the 1-seed in that corner of the bracket while Ohio State is taking care of business very efficiently.

Sullinger recovered from early foul trouble to lead Ohio State to a 73-66 win over Gonzaga in the second round. Sullinger scored 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting against a talented Gonzaga frontcourt and he put up 12 points and 11 rebounds in the Buckeyes first win of the tournament.

Sullinger, who is clearly one of the best big men in college basketball and will be a lottery pick in the NBA draft whenever he decides to jump, has averaged 17.6 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game this season. In the past five games, however, Sullinger has taken his play to another level. He scored 30 on March 9 in a blowout 88-71 win over Purdue, 24 points against Michigan in the Big 10 tournament and had 18 points and 9 boards against Michigan State in the Big 10 championship.

He followed that up with a strong showing in the first two games of NCAA tournament action. And the biggest reason Buckeyes fans should feel good about their final four chances?

No one can match up with him.

Cincinnati will likely match Yancy Gates on Sullinger but the Bearcats have no one big enough or tough enough to really match up well with him. If Syracuse escapes Wisconsin, then the Cuse have to try to stop Sullinger without their top interior defender, Fab Melo. If Wisconsin defeats Syracuse, Sullinger is facing a familiar foe, and one he has succeeded against at times (he had 24 in one of the earlier matchups with Wisconsin).

This Ohio State team is loaded with talent and the Buckeyes don’t need to rely on their All-American center to carry the load. But, with the matchups he has ahead of him, Sullinger could be poised for an even stronger weekend of games as he looks to propel Ohio State to the final four for the first time since 2006.

Jared Sullinger scores 21 versus Duke:

Mark Chalifoux is a contributing writer to CBS Local Digital Media. He can be reached at mark.chalifoux@gmail.com and @markchalifoux on twitter.


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