There is no question that Craft has the defensive advantage here. He might be the best defensive point guard in the country and much of what Ohio State does defensively revolves around what Craft starts with his pressure on the point guard. However, Craft is not a very good offensive player. Yes, he can hit some jumpers and we would not describe him as being bad, but if he controls a game offensively, it is not only a surprise, but bad news for the opposition.
Craft has had strong offensive games this season when his team needs him, as shown by his 20-point effort against Michigan State a few weeks ago and 18 points in his game against Iowa State. He only shoots 43 percent from the field and 30 percent from three, but the potential is here.
The question is whether or not Lyons can handle Craft's defense. He is certainly the better offensive player, but Craft has made good offensive players look bad. If Lyons can take care of the ball and have a relatively efficient game, Arizona is going to be in good shape.
SG: Nick Johnson (6-3, 200, So.) vs. Lenzelle Smith (6-4, 205, Jr.)
It is going to be interesting to see how much Smith plays, as Thad Matta could choose to go more with Shannon Scott in order to contain Johnson's offense. Smith is a decent offensive player, averaging a little over nine points per game on 43 percent shooting. While that may not seem impressive, there is potential for Smith to get hot from three. Offensively, however, he has struggled in his past seven games, scoring in double digits only twice.
It would not be a surprise to see Johnson be a little more aggressive on offense and his defense is strong enough where Smith should not be a major factor in that regard. A good offensive game from Smith is bad for Arizona and the guess here is that Johnson guards him in order to limit the offensive options for the Buckeyes.
SF: Kevin Parrom (6-6, 220, Sr.) vs. Sam Thompson (6-7, 190, So.)
Parrom struggled against Harvard and fouled out in only 14 minutes, but had a strong game against Belmont. Thompson is a freak athlete that is putting up eight points and three rebounds per game while shooting 50 percent. He is not a dominant offensive player by any means but, like his teammates, there is potential there.
Thompson went for 20 points and 10 rebounds against an overmatched Iona team and followed it up with only seven points against Iowa State. He has only scored in double digits twice in his past ten games, but tends to be efficient when he wants to take more shots and be more aggressive on offense.
Parrom has just as much scoring ability as Thompson and it will be interesting to see how each player attacks the other. Parrom is more of a shooter and Thompson is more of a player that is going to use his speed and athleticism to beat Parrom. We see this as being pretty even, but a big advantage for either team would be a large step towards winning.
PF: Solomon Hill (6-7, 220, Sr.) vs. Deshaun Thomas (6-7, 225, Jr.)
There seems to be little doubt that Thomas is going to get his points because that is frankly what he has done all season. His lowest point total of the season is 11, but he averages 19 points per game. That average includes 31 against Washington, 16 against Duke, 16 against Kansas, 28 against Michigan State, 26 against Indiana, and more. Basically, Thomas has stepped up in some of Ohio State's biggest games of the year.
The question here is how effective Hill can be on Thomas and whether or not Hill can at least slow him down. Thomas is not considered to be a great defensive player because he is a bit slow laterally, so Hill would be smart to be aggressive to the basket. Thomas is the stronger player, but it will be interesting to see if Hill is indeed aggressive or if he chooses to work more from outside in order to draw Thomas away from the basket.
The key for Hill defensively is not to stop Thomas from scoring, because that just is not going to happen. Instead, Hill must make sure that Thomas is working for every basket and if those points can come at a low shooting percentage, Arizona can live with that.
Advantage: Ohio State
C: Kaleb Tarczewski (7-0, 255, Fr.) vs. Amir Williams (6-11, 250, So.)
Ohio State has a choice to make here because Arizona probably does not mind if Williams plays extended minutes. He only averages nearly four points and four rebounds per game in about 16 minutes per game. The choice that OSU has to make is whether or not it wants to play Williams those bigger minutes or if it wants to go small and try to take Tarczewski out of the game.
If Arizona can play Tarczewski for a solid period of time, that is likely in the Wildcats' favor. Tarczewski is the better player and although Williams has potential, Arizona's big man can more than hold his own here. The real story in this matchup is what Arizona does when Ohio State decides to go small because that is the most likely thing to happen.
Bench: Neither team has much of an advantage here, as there is plenty of talent on both benches. Ohio State will use Shannon Scott, LaQuinton Ross, and Evan Ravenel off the bench. The Buckeyes do not really foul, so these are players that get minutes due to how good they are, not because of foul trouble.
Ross is the most dynamic of the three and although he is inconsistent, the 6-7 forward can be a nightmare to guard. The question is if the Ross that scored 17 points in 21 minutes against Iowa State will show up or if it will be the one that scored 14 combined in the two previous games.
In addition, we can see Scott getting extended minutes in order to guard Johnson. Scott only averages about six points on 41 percent shooting, but he is a very good defensive player. Ohio State likes to give him minutes in order to neutralize the opposing backcourt, but it is often at the expense of some offense. Scott's biggest strength in terms of offense is that he is a good passer, as shown by four assists in only 21 minutes per game.
Evan Ravenel is a 6-foot-8, 260-pound forward that is a load to guard in the paint. He only shoots a handful of times per game, but grabs four rebounds in 17 minutes and can be tough defensively as well.
Arizona matches up well with what Ohio State can offer from the bench, especially with its size. Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett are going to likely get a good amount of minutes and it would not be a surprise to see Miller throw both of them at Thomas in order to make him uncomfortable.
Coaching: Sean Miller vs. Thad Matta
We have a ton of respect for Thad Matta and he has taken the Buckeyes to four straight Sweet 16 appearances. He has won 77 percent of his games at Ohio State and the program seems to be in great shape. In Matta's past six tournament appearances, he has gone past the Sweet 16 twice even though he has coached the conference title team five times. Miller has had similar tournament success and although Matta has been more successful during the regular season, March is a completely different animal.
Prediction: I don't really have a feel for this game at all. Arizona has played well in the tournament, but it has also been against two teams that it should have beaten like it did. Ohio State has also played well, but had a close call against a solid Iowa State team.
The Buckeyes are a fantastic defensive team that should be able to guard Arizona at most positions. The only defensive difficulty that OSU could have is if Arizona goes with a big lineup, but Matta is a good enough coach where he should have a plan for that. I don't like to put games down to one matchup, but Lyons vs. Craft is going to be huge. Lyons doesn't even have to outplay him, he just needs to take care of the ball and make good decisions.
If Lyons can do just that and Arizona defends well, it has a darn good shot of getting the upset. Arizona can't get down early or have any offensive lapses in this game or else it is going to lose. The Buckeyes are too good for the Wildcats to be able to come back from that.
Arizona has a shot in this game, but Ohio State is playing very well. We don't see either team getting a major advantage, but like the Buckeyes to come up big one or two more times en route to beating Arizona.
Ohio State 68, Arizona 67