For Arizona, who didn’t get to collect any silverware in the Pac-12 this season, it’s been an easy road in the NCAA tournament so far. Ohio State, the Big Ten tournament champions, needed a bit of luck to get by their third round opponents, making it to their fourth consecutive Sweet Sixteen.
Both teams have a couple of players they absolutley must have in good form in order to win. For Arizona, it sums down to just one player – senior guard Mark Lyons, who is averaging 25 points per game in the tournament (wins over Belmont and Harvard), going 20-32 from the field. His battle against Aaron Craft, the most important player for Ohio State because of his clutch ability and his defense, might be the matchup that decides the fate of this game.
Another major issue is discipline. So many games in the NCAA tournament are decided on turnovers. The Buckeyes, one of the best defensive teams in the nation, are 11th in the nation with a turnover on only 16.4% of their possessions. Arizona? They’re 150th, turning the ball over on 19.6% of their possessions.
Ohio State started strong against Iona, but needed Aaron Craft to hit a clutch three pointer in order to get by a pesky but excellent Iowa State team. Maybe going through a harded game in the previous round, not to mention tougher conference, will tip the scales in their favor, along with having a standout forward like Deshaun Thomas (19.5 points per game) on their side.
Prediction – Arizona are a one-man team, the Buckeyes have two. Thomas is as solid as they come when it comes to his offensive production, and Aaron Craft might be the most reliable two-way point guard in the nation. That should be enough to reach the Elite Eight.