Over the next two days, RTC will break down the regional semifinal games using our best analytical efforts to understand these teams, the matchups and their individual strengths and weaknesses. Our hope is that you’ll let us know in the comments where you agree, disagree or otherwise think we’ve lost our collective minds. Here are Thursday night’s games from the East and West Regionals.
7:07 pm – #2 Ohio State vs. #6 Tennessee (Midwest Region)
We know the Buckeyes have had three full days of rest since their second round game against Georgia Tech. But Thad Matta has shortened (and by “shortened,” we mean “set on fire and forgotten about”) his bench so much late in the season and in this tournament that you have to even wonder if that’s enough time for the Buckeyes to recover. Jon Diebler has played every minute of the Buckeyes’ first two tournament games. William Buford has missed two minutes of action TOTAL out of the possible 210 minutes of game time in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. David Lighty and Evan Turner have only sat for five minutes in that same time span. The only starter who sits for any amount of time is big man Dallas Lauderdale, and he still plays at least 30 minutes a game. Yet, the Buckeyes keep rolling. The only thing Jon Diebler seems tired of is finding himself open behind the three point line. He’s 11-22 in OSU’s two tournament games, and a lot of these things aren’t monitor-checkers. They were deep. And of course Turner has shown us his usual excellence. There aren’t any surprises with the Buckeyes. Tennessee, though, is a different story. You never know whose night it’s going to be. Scotty Hopson, Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince…any one or two of these guys can get hot, but then you have to worry about players like Brian Williams or Melvin Goins or Bobby Maze stepping up with a 15 point or 12 rebound night. OSU’s four-forwards-and-Turner (who’s officially listed as a forward!) will be able to keep the Volunteer guards from getting too out of hand, but can they guard and rebound against the slightly taller Tennessee bigs? As a team, rebounding is one of the few Buckeye weaknesses, and Tennessee has shown the capability to dominate the glass this year when they put their minds to it. Both teams are among the nation’s best when it comes to guarding the three, but it’s OSU that gets a little more of their offense from the long ball. On paper, the matchups are not favorable for OSU. And the Tennessee kids are the kind who will relish the fact that they’re “supposed” to lose this game. We doubt it’ll be a blowout, and remarkably both of these teams are fantastic in games decided by ten points or less. In those games, OSU is 10-5 this season, and Tennessee is 13-2. It’s gonna be a fun one.
The Skinny: If both teams guard the three well, it will hurt OSU more than Tennessee. Factor in the possibility that all those minutes could be catching up to the Buckeyes, and you have the makings of an upset. It’s not easy taking the Volunteers in this game, because of how they can sometimes take nights off between the ears. But Tennessee has had two chances to underestimate their opponent in this tournament, and didn’t either time. They won’t here; they know what OSU can do. Wouldn’t be surprised to see the Volunteers emerge.
7:27 pm – #3 Baylor vs. #10 St. Mary’s (South Region)