Ohio State considered best opponent of year

Arizona head coach Sean Miller has made no secret of the fact that he believes Ohio State is the best opponent Arizona has faced this season. Read on to see why, what Arizona needs to do to win, and more.

Arizona is set to face its toughest opponent of the NCAA tournament when it takes on Ohio State on Thursday. In fact, the Buckeyes may be the best team that the Wildcats have faced all season.

However, Miller is not sure if there would have been any difference had Arizona faced better teams than Belmont and Harvard in the second and third round.

"You can't read it," Miller said. "I can make the case that in our margin of victory we have a lot of confidence right now, which is a really good thing moving into L.A., that we've played well, and that if you say we haven't been tested its more about the margin of victory than the fact of the competition.

"Belmont is just an incredible team. We could've played New Mexico, who is one of the nation's best teams, but the reason we didn't play them was because the team they played was good enough to beat them two nights earlier. Harvard was our next opponent and I thought we played the way we needed to play against both of those teams.

One aspect of Thursday's game that is undeniable is that Arizona will be facing a very good defensive team led by point guard Aaron Craft.

"They're a great defensive team," Miller said. "It all starts with Aaron Craft. If he isn't one of your favorite players then you don't like college basketball. He has that Tim Tebow quality. At Florida, it wasn't just his performance on the field, but the kind of person he was, and the leadership that he provided, and the competitive spirit that he embodied that spread throughout Florida's football team.

"Aaron Craft does the same thing for Ohio State basketball. His defense is contagious and his competitive fire. He's not a great three-point shooter, but when the game is on the line, for example against Ohio State, if you're a betting man, then you're going to bet that shot is going to go in. That's just who he is, an incredible person, student, basketball, and leader. He is the heart and soul of Ohio State."

Arizona should have a major advantage by playing in Los Angeles, as most believe that the majority of the fans in attendance will be rooting for Arizona. However, Miller does not believe that the game will be decided by that crowd advantage.

"I'd much rather play Ohio State in L.A. than in Dayton, Ohio," Miller said. "We have to take advantage of that. We have a short trip and we are going to have more fans, but at the end of the day, because of their incredible tournament experience and the fact that they win Big Ten Championships the way they do, I don't believe that the crowd will affect a team like Ohio State.

"I think that we will have to flat out be the better team. Maybe the crowd will help us play well, but I don't think it'll impact them negatively."

In terms of what type of game Arizona will have to play in order to win, Miller believes that it requires the best effort of the season.

"We have to play a great game," Miller said. "They are a two seed, so I look at them as one of the top eight teams in the country. If you had to value that, they are probably more towards the top four than the top eight. They have earned it; I think they have won ten in a row now. They are playing in the nation's best conference, and they won the Big Ten tournament.

"They have a number of big players that start on this year's team that played on last year's team, and you look at them as one of the elite teams in the country, and for us, we have to be at that level to beat them. We've done it, you look at the Sweet 16 we've beaten Florida and Miami, and we played Oregon in conference, we know the level we have to play at. I think we're capable but anything less than that won't be good enough."

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