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Elite 8 Preview
When will people stop underestimating Wichita State? Once again, even after a blow out over La Salle, the Shockers are coming in as high as six-point underdogs to Ohio State. While the Buckeyes have won 11 straight games, it's not like they are blowing out opponents. Against Arizona, they were down by as many as 11 points in the first half, but a 22-5 run saved their season. And once again much like the Iowa State game, Ohio State let the Wildcats back in the game and it was eventually tied with 20 seconds to go.
Considering they have let late leads slip away in back-to-back games - to only be saved by last second three-pointers - how do they deserve anyone's trust? The Shockers, on the other hand, have covered in all three of their NCAA Tournament games. For a team that had trouble closing out the regular season, they have put together one of the more surprising runs of the tourney. While they aren't huge, they have beaten up on opponents with their strength. None of their three opponents have shot above 36 percent from the field. That includes Gonzaga who shot above 50 percent as a team on the season. Against La Salle, their post-game was just too much led by Carl Hall and that eventually led to open lanes for Malcolm Armstead to operate in.
Ohio State will be the best defense Wichita State has faced and the most athletic, but don't expect them to back down, especially not in the Elite Eight. Their main task will be stopping Deshaun Thomas from easy looks. In truth, you can't stop Thomas completely because he will always find ways to put the ball in the bucket, but you have to make him work for it. Arizona did not, as he received constant open looks en route to another 20-point game on 50 percent shooting. It will be interesting to see who the Shockers put on Thomas because they are a smaller team. Cleanthony Early will probably start once again and seems the likely matchup as Carl Hall will be used against Amir Williams. Early has the size to markup Thomas, but strength is another question.
An even bigger matchup to watch in this game will be Aaron Craft against Malcolm Armstead. The two have basically been the engines of each of their teams. Armstead has done it all and is unstoppable once he drives to the rack, especially in transition. The immovable force that is Craft will pose a threat as he'll try to disrupt Armstead's game which could give the Shockers offense some problems.
When talking about these teams, you can't forget to mention their role players. Most notably Ohio State as they usually have one new guy step up each game for them. Against Arizona, LaQuinton Ross liked his matchup and he dominated it going for 17 points and the game-winning three. Sam Thompson is another player that can be effective while Lenzelle Smith Jr. is a player you can't leave open beyond the arc. Ron Baker is the name to know from Wichita State as he will likely be a factor in this game. His physicality and ability to hit the three-ball is something the Buckeyes need to watch out for.
There is no doubt this game will be physical which is something Ohio State may have the edge in after playing in the Big Ten all season. Still, the Shockers are playing good team basketball right now and are riding a high. This game could come down to who's hitting their shots from downtown and right now, both teams are.
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