Preview: No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 6 Arizona Wildcats

Tip: Thursday, March 28, 7:47 pm Court: Staples Center

Watch it on: TBS  Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Len Elmore, Lewis Johnson

Winner will play: No. 9 Wichita St./ No. 13 La Salle

Spread: Buckeyes -3.5


Record: 28-7 Conference record: 13-5 Neutral court: 7-0

Leaders: Points: Deshaun Thomas (19.5)

Rebounds: Thomas (6.2)

Assists: Aaron Craft (4.6)



Record: 27-7 Conference record: 12-6 Neutral court: 6-1

Leaders: Points: Mark Lyons (14.8)

Rebounds: Kaleb Tarczewski (6.1)

Assists: Nick Johnson (3.2)


Buckeyes offense vs. Wildcats defense


Will Arizona’s big men control the paint?

When the Wildcats and Buckeyes take the floor Thursday night, the glaring disparity between the two teams will be Arizona’s clear height advantage in the paint. Coach Sean Miller uses two highly touted freshmen in a rotation at power forward with Brandon Ashley (6-8) and Grant Jarrett, (6-10) alongside another highly touted freshman Kaleb Tarczewski (7-0) at center. Although they are young and inexperienced, the three big men were five star recruits and have the ability to lock down the paint. How will Coach Thad Matta arrange his lineup versus the trees in the lane? Will he give Amir Williams/ Evan Ravenel more playing time, or will they try to spread out the Arizona big men with a smaller lineup? Although Solomon Hill will most likely cover Deshaun Thomas, Thomas could have his hands full if he is down low for the majority of the game. Another intriguing match up will be Craft vs. Mark Lyons/ Nick Johnson. Lyons is Arizona’s de facto point guard but Johnson is a supreme athlete and is the much better defender. If Lyons struggles early defensively, expect Arizona head coach Sean Miller to put Johnson on Craft.

Similar to Iona, the Wildcats struggle when guarding the perimeter. They have allowed opponents to shoot 36 percent from three point land, (287th in the nation)  which then turns their height advantage to a disadvantage if their opponent is hitting from the outside. Spreading the Arizona bigs out of the paint is key to scoring on the Wildcats, and if the Buckeyes can hit from the outside early,  Miller will have to adjust.

Wildcats offense vs. Buckeyes defense


Which Mark Lyons will show up for the Wildcats?

This is where the game will ultimately be won or lost for the Buckeyes. Craft has already manned up against the great guards from Michigan, Kansas, Duke and the others from the B1G and you can now add Mark Lyons to the list of another great guard that Craft will be shadowing today. Lyons has had a great NCAA tournament, dropping 23 points against Belmont and then 27 versus Harvard but he has not gone against an on ball defender like Craft. He thrives with the ball in his hands and he is also not afraid to take the last shot, as he hit the game winner at home against Florida earlier in the year. The knock on Lyons is that he can get a bit wild at times and force up questionable jump shots and three pointers, thus destroying Miller’s offensive philosophy. If Lyon’s feels frustrated by Craft and decides he wants to be selfish, he has the ability to lose the game for the Wildcats.

Next to Lyons, the other half of the ‘Cats back court is Nick Johnson who is very athletic and can score in bunches; expect Shannon Scott to cover Johnson. They have the big freshmen that I touched on earlier who are capable of scoring inside but their offensive games are not polished enough to really take over the game. If one were to go off, it would be Ashley as he is the most advanced of the freshmen big men offensively and could be an X-Factor. Then there is Solomon Hill, who is Miller’s do it all version of Deshaun Thomas. Hill does not score at will like Thomas but he is a solid, all around, senior forward with experience who can score from inside or outside. He makes the little plays that do not necessarily show up on the stat sheet but is tough to guard defensively.

Ken Pom ranks the Wildcats offense as the 21st most efficient in the country and they averaged 77 points per game in the regular season.


The Buckeyes will defeat the Wildcats on the court and off the court

The Buckeyes will defeat the Wildcats on the court and off the court

The Wildcats are most dangerous when they are playing team basketball and when Lyons is playing smart. If Craft can get into Lyon’s head and play terrorizing on ball defense, the Buckeyes’ chance of winning will be high. If Lyon’s is playing smart and taking what Craft gives him, it will come down to the final possession. I think Lyon’s will use his tournament experience (back to back Sweet 16’s with two different teams) to play smart but it will not be enough. This will be one of the better games of March Madness.

Ohio State 67

Arizona 64

What is your prediction on this Sweet 16 match-up? Let us know in the comments below!

To learn more about Arizona from a Wildcat’s point of view, click here.


  1. Craft shuts down Lyons and Thomas has one of those games we’ve been waiting for — OSU wins big:

    OSU: 72
    ‘Zona: 63

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