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All-American showdown: Jared Sullinger and Thomas Robinson to battle in the Final Four

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The Ohio State and Kansas men’s basketball programs met during the regular season, but Buckeyes sophomore forward Jared Sullinger and Jayhawks junior forward Thomas Robinson did not.

When the two players square off Saturday in a national semifinal match, they will do so with some new hardware.

With less than a week to go before OSU takes on Kansas in an NCAA Tournament semifinal match, Sullinger and Robinson were both handed first-team All-American honors by the Associated Press Monday.

Sullinger received the honor for a second-consecutive year and is the first player since former North Carolina forward Tyler Hansborough (2008, 2009) to accomplish that feat.

The AP has now bestowed the honor on an OSU player in each of the last three consecutive seasons, including former Buckeye guard Even Turner in 2010.

Robinson receives the award for the first time in his career and is the first unanimous First-Team selection since former Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin in 2009.

Sullinger and Robinson were also named to the John R. Wooden Award All-American team Monday.

The Buckeyes traveled to Lawrence, Kansas, to play KU on Dec. 10, 2011 and lost, 78-67, on the Jayhawks’ home court.

OSU was without the services of Sullinger, who traveled to Lawrence but missed the contest due to back spasms. In Sullinger’s absence, Robinson scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds to help lead KU.

During a Monday teleconference, Jayhawks coach Bill Self said he knows Kansas caught a break that day, but praised the decision to keep the player off the court.

“Looking back now – what a smart decision,” Self said os OSU coach Thad Matta’s decision not to play Sullinger. “Why risk anything? And (OSU is) still a team that goes to the Final Four.”

Self also said Robinson and the rest of his team are looking forward to a rematch with OSU.

“I know (Robinson) will be excited. I know he thinks a lot of Jared,” Self said. “Certainly we’ll get an opportunity to play not only a great team but one of the premier players in the country.”

Matta, who said he expects both teams to be different in the rematch Saturday, was equally complimentary of Kansas’ All-American honoree, saying Robinson is a special player.

“(Robinson) can hurt you in so many ways,” Matta said. “That’s what great players have the capability of doing. (Kansas) is playing at a high level right now, and Thomas Robinson is the key.”

Joining Sullinger and Robinson on the Associated Press’ First-Team is Kentucky freshman forward Anthony Davis,Michigan State senior forward Draymond Green and Creighton sophomore forward Doug McDermott. Player to receive Second-Team nods from the AP included Murray State junior guard Isaiah Canaan, Missouri senior guard Marcus Denmon, West Virginia senior forward Kevin Jones, North Carolina senior forward Tyler Zeller and Marquette senior forward Jae Crowder.

The national semifinal game between the Buckeyes and Jayhawks will tip Saturday at about 9 p.m.

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