Keys to the Game: Arizona vs. Ohio State

Arizona will take on Ohio State on Thursday. Read on to see what the Wildcats need to do in order to advance to the Elite Eight.

The potential Cinderella teams are in the rear view mirror – for now at least – and the Arizona Wildcats must now face a team that is going to present more talent than they saw in the first two games.

The Ohio State Buckeyes aren't littered with NBA Lottery selections, but they are a disciplined group coached by one of the best in the business in Thad Matta.

The Wildcats, while handling two opponents in the fashion they were expected to, have looked to have taken their collective game to another notch or two above where it was heading into the postseason.

The flow of the offense has been much smoother and more efficient, while the defense has played with more intensity and with a sense of purpose.

Those trends must continue for Arizona's season to stay alive. OSU is not Belmont or Harvard, plus the Buckeyes are riding a 10-game winning streak and have been one of the hottest teams in the country for over a month. Arizona will need to accomplish a few goals if it wants to end Ohio State's run and advance to the Elite Eight.

Continue the intense defense along the perimeter: The Buckeyes are far from being considered one of the nation's best outside shooting teams, but there are a few players that have the potential to make UA pay from long range. Players like Aaron Craft, LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith can do damage if left open and Arizona's perimeter defense has been lackadaisical at times.

Against Belmont and Harvard – two squads that rely on their outside shooting to win – the Wildcats hustled, defended well through screens, and constantly got a hand in the face of the shooter. If that continues, Ohio State will have to figure out another way to score points.

Don't let role players take over: OSU has one legitimate scoring threat – Deshaun Thomas – and several other players that, while capable of contributing, aren't considered players that can be relied upon for points on a regular basis. If Smith, Thompson, Aaron Craft or anyone else happens to supply Thomas with enough scoring support, the Buckeyes are going to be extremely difficult to defeat.

Stopping Thomas outright would be an ideal strategy, but that's much easier said than done. If the Wildcats can simply contain Thomas and prevent his teammates from picking up the slack, Arizona is going to give OSU all it can handle.

The Mark Lyons show must go on: While Lyons has his fair share of critics, only a fool would believe he wasn't one of biggest reasons Arizona's offense has been so successful in the NCAA Tournament.

While he doesn't necessarily possess the traits of a typical point guard, his ability to break down an entire defense can be very beneficial to the rest of his team, as evident over the first two tournament contests.

If Lyons can continue getting to the basket as well as knocking down shots from beyond the arc, UA's offense should have no problem rolling on Thursday.

Freshmen must produce: The growth of the freshmen has really been realized in the postseason, but the Wildcats will need their young big men to continue to improve, especially with their play in the paint.

They have been able to dominate the area around the basket on both ends of the floor, but the Buckeyes bring a little more size and talent.

Kaleb Tarczewski continues to find good looks around the basket and figure out how to impose his size and strength on the opposition. Brandon Ashley's game, while a bit inconsistent, continues to make strides in virtually every area.

If those two can produce and Grant Jerrett's injury doesn't disrupt his shooting stroke and ability to block shots, Arizona won't have to worry about the play of its youth in this affair.

Strong outside shooting: The Wildcats have connected on well over half of their attempts from beyond the arc in the tournament thus far and if that trend continues on Thursday, Arizona's stay in the big dance should extend for at least one more game. If the Cats struggle from deep, Ohio State is going to be able to expose their weaknesses on offense much easier.

The seniors must continue to excel: Arizona's leaders have been huge in recent weeks and their high-level play will be essential as they face one of the nation's top teams. Lyons, Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom have all had their fair share of tournament battles and UA would like to reap the benefits of their postseason experience.

Each player has stepped up their intensity and they are playing each game with the knowledge that it could be their last. That attitude has seemingly rubbed off on the rest of the squad and the Wildcats are playing with a purpose on both offense and defense.

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