Ohio State vs. Syracuse
Elite 8 Pick
Heavyweights of the East Region of the NCAA Tournament are set to meet on Saturday as Syracuse (1) and Ohio State (2) have advanced to the Elite Eight. The Jared Sullinger led Buckeyes find themselves in this spot after beating Cincinnati in the Sweet Sixteen. They had a 12 point lead at half time, but allowed the Bearcats to draw even with 10 minutes left in the Game only to draw away again for an 81-66 win. The Orange used a close 64-63 Game against Wisconsin where the Badgers drained 14 three pointers to advance to this spot.
The Buckeyes opened as a 2 ½ point favorite and the line has since moved to 3. Thad Matta’s team is the 12th best shooting team in the nation with a FG% of 48.6. Penetrating Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone presents a unique challenge though. The Orange are a team that works the ball around and have several players that can put the ball in the hoop. They are 15th in the nation in assists at 15.8 per Game.
Before reaching the Sweet Sixteen, Ohio State shared a Big Ten regular season championship with Michigan and Michigan State. They beat Loyala (MD) in the first round 78-59 and then beat up on a good Gonzaga team to win 73-66. The Zags, a good inside team, had no answer for Sullinger and Thomas.
The Orangemen of Syracuse survived a first round scare against UNC-Asheville, a Game they won 72-65 despite trailing much of the way. After that they defeated a depleted Kansas State team that was playing without leading rebounder and second leading scorer Jamar Sameuls. The Scorein that bout was 75-59.
Syracuse will rely on the youngster Dion Waiters for points and flare. The sophomore averages 12.6 PPG to go with 2.3 RPG and 2.6 APG. He was stellar against Wisconsin with 13 points on 5-11 shooting. Senior G SCoop Jardine had a bad regular season while averaging just 8.3 PPG, but has come on strongly in the post season. Jardine had 14 against Wisconsin and 16 against Kansas State. He will have to step up once again for Syrcause to advance to the Final Four.
The Buckeyes have any number of players that can burn up an opposing defense. The first and foremost is 6-9 big man Jared Sullinger. The sophomore crushed Cincinnati for 23 points and 11 rebounds. He averaged 17.6 PPG and 9.3 RPG during the regular season. The OSU star is a surefire lottery pick. Another sophomore, Deshaun Thomas, has been pivotal as well. He averages 15.4 PPG and 5 RPG. Thomas got Cincinnati for 18 points. While not known for his scoring, sophomore Aaron Craft got 17 against Gonzaga. The G is one of the best in the nation and will almost certainly give Syracuse fits.
Syracuse vs. Ohio State pits two big and physical teams against each other. Ohio State is young and seriously talented, while the Orangemen are talented, seasoned and mature. This Game is likely to come down to the last couple of minutes.