West Regional Final Game Analysis: #2 Ohio State vs #9 Wichita StatePosted by AMurawa on March 30th, 2013
#2 Ohio State vs. #9 Wichita State – West Regional Regional Final (Los Angeles, CA) – 7:05PM ET on CBS
With Florida Gulf Coast’s magical run over, Wichita State is now left to carry the banner for Cinderella in the NCAA Tournament. Having already knocked off Gonzaga, the team that finished the season as the number one team in the polls, the Shockers have experience playing that role, but today they face a team in Ohio State that is as hot as any team in the country, having reeled off 11 straight victories with nine of those coming against NCAA Tournament teams. In other words, the Shockers are about to face a big step up in the level of competition. But, you know what? Wichita State belongs on the same floor as the Buckeyes. They’re not going to be over-matched athletically like so many underdogs are, if anything they have a slight height advantage and these Shockers are pretty darn hot themselves right now. They have a quintet of talented guards that as a group can attack the hoop, score from deep and play tremendous defense. And then up front they have a pair of 6’8” bulldogs, with Carl Hall more than willing to mix it up in the paint while Cleanthony Early can be a match-up problem with his inside/outside game.
But, as well as Wichita State matches up with the Buckeyes, Ohio State matches up with them. While Early is a strong offensive threat and a tough rebounder, he’s not a real good match-up for Ohio State’s leading scorer DeShaun Thomas – not that very many people are. Thomas has faced far more fearsome defenders than Early, and Gregg Marshall probably knows that he’ll have to run additional defenders at Thomas to get the ball out of his hands. And if the ball is coming out of Thomas’ hands, if these last two games are any indication, that might mean it is going to wind up in LaQuinton Ross’ hands. Ross is Ohio State’s breakout star (he had 14 of the Buckeyes’ last 17 points in their Sweet 16 win over Arizona, including the game winner) and he has shown a versatile offensive game that very few teams in the nation have a great match-up for, and Wichita State is no exception. But, as good as Ross has been these last two games, two fine performances does not make a consistent offensive performer.
If Ross continues his strong play, the Buckeyes are in fine shape. But the fact is, the engine that makes Ohio State go is junior guard Aaron Craft. He’s made his name largely as a defender, but he’s also one of the nation’s best floor generals and he’s showed an improved scoring sense over the length of the win streak. Luckily, Marshall’s got his own elite defender in sophomore Tekele Cotton, a guy who is capable of pestering point guards or banging with wings bigger than his 6’2” frame. Still, for all of Wichita’s depth and athleticism, the Buckeyes are going to have, at worst, the two best players on the floor, depending on which Ross shows up. And as we were reminded of again on Friday night, this time of year, it is awful nice to have the most dependable point guard.
The RTC Certified Pick: Ohio State