This is the Game no one is talking about. With Ohio State being far and away the highest seed left in the West region, many have given them a free route to the Final Four. After their most recent win against Iowa State, there’s no reason to be overly confident in the Buckeyes. They were a blocking call away from losing to the Cyclones. As for Arizona, they have had zero problems in the Tourney so far. Granted, each team they’ve played has been a great matchup, but let’s not forget the Wildcats still haven’t lost to anyone outside of the Pac-12 this year. They have wins over Florida and Miami (FL) just to name a couple. Considering they are playing their best basketball of the season, the +4 spread is pretty enticing if you like Arizona.
Ohio State obviously presents a much tougher matchup, but Arizona will still have the advantage down low in this Game. Led by seven-footer Kaleb Tarczewski, the Wildcats have dominated the boards and the paint in their last two Games. Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley are two more freshmen big men to worry about for the Buckeyes. Jerrett picked up an elbow injury in the Harvard Game, but the MRI was negative and he should be ready for this Game. Coming off the bench, those two can make a difference probably facing up against the less athletic Evan Ravenel.
Arizona also has great, but inconsistent guard play whose main task will be taking care of the ball. Iowa State turned the ball over 16 times against OSU which was their eventual undoing. Mark Lyons has done a better job taking care of the ball lately, but he still averages 2.7 turnovers per Game. He’ll likely be matched up with defensive guru Aaron Craft. Lyons has dropped 50 points in the last two Games which will be very hard to do in this one. Offensively, Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson will be called upon for bigger roles. Johnson is usually the facilitator, but does have the ability to drive and put the ball in the hoop.
Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom will likely switch duties defending Ohio State’s best scorer, Deshaun Thomas. All you can do against Thomas is put a hand in his face and force tough shots. Even then, he’s such a good scorer that he can drop 20 points no matter who’s guarding him. So far, he has 46 points on 16-of-26 shooting in the Tournament. The other main task Arizona will have is stopping Aaron Craft. That didn’t use to be the case, but Craft has silently become a threat, made evident by his Game-winning three last round. While he’s not going to take a lot of outside shots, Craft can drive by most defenders and is a great finisher around the basket.
However, as is always the case for Ohio State, help is needed outside of Thomas and Craft. LAQuinton Ross dropped 17 points last Game while Sam Thompson had 20 against Iona. It could be Lenzelle Smith Jr.’s turn in this one.
The West region has been full of upsets already, but that doesn’t mean more can’t happen. No one is talking about Arizona’s chances right now which is making things easier for them to slider under the radar. Ohio State is the favorite, yet still has some proving to do before they make it to Atlanta.