While it’s pretty obvious that Ohio State are the big favorites to win this Elite Eight matchup, the one game with the least amount of parity in it among the four in this round, it’s hard to say that Wichita State aren’t good enough for the upset after already making it this far.
After all, beating Pittsburgh by 17 points in the opening round, followed by a dominant win over number one (wrongly, in hindsight) Gonzaga and later on La Salle by 14 points means that they mean business, and the Shockers are looking to make the final four for the first time in nearly 50 years.
They key? Carl Hall, the team’s senior forward who didn’t even play basketball during the first couple of years, needs to have a big game. He scored 16 points against the Explorers in the previous round, adding 8 rebounds and 3 blocks. Those numbers might be even more important, because Hall, who’ll probably play more than 27 minutes this time, is going to guard Deshaun Thomas. While Ohio State are more than a one man team, that one player is the most dangerous of them all.
During Ohio State’s 11-game winning streak, Deshaun Thomas has taken 17 shots or more three times. He took 17 shots or more in five of the six games that preceded that run. The Buckeyes were 3-3 in those contests. Thomas, averaging 19.7 points this season, stepping up after Jared Sullinger left to the NBA, has scored 24, 22 and 20 points in the tournament so far, playing an average of 36 minutes a night. He’s going to spend that amount, or more, this time as well, despite only two days of rest, and his dominance is a must for Ohio State, even though they have more to give off the bench in the form of LaQuinton Ross, showing up big-time in the tournament so far.
And how about Aaron Craft? The best defensive point guard in the nation is going to have his hands full with Malcolm Armstead, averaging 16 points and four assists in the tournament so far. Craft’s ability to stop him is going to be a big key in Ohio State’s chances to playing the favorite role the right way.
Prediction – Depth counts for a lot, especially after one full day of rest. While the Shockers have tools to handle Ohio State with their lineup, the moment fatigue and the bench comes into play, we’re going to see the difference between the teams, and the Buckeyes carry on to another final four.