Aaron Craft looked antsy at Friday's press conference. Like he would have preferred to see fans in the stands and Syracuse on the court when he walked out. Tonight, Syracuse may not be so eager to see Craft, the 6'2" pesky point guard of the Buckeyes who never takes a play off.
"He takes great pride in what he's doing every single possession," Head Coach Thad Matta said Friday. "That's why I've said all year, he's the best defender in college basketball."
When a reporter asked what he thought of teams calling him a royal pain in the rear, the sophomore responded,
"I hope so. You know that's what the goal of a good defensive player is, just try to take another player out of his rhythm."
Craft said he developed his defensive skills as an undersized kid growing up with two older brothers.
"I couldn't score too much because I was a lot smaller, but I could frustrate them if I was playing defense."
Tonight, Craft will be charged with the difficult task of taking Syracuse's guards out of a run and gun style they love to turn into instant fastbreak offense. When asked what guard he expects to match Craft up with, Matta smirked and said, "All of them."
SU Assistant Coach Gerry McNamara marveled at the skills of Craft from court-side at TD Garden following the Orange's win Thursday night.
"Well first of all he plays way better defense than I ever did. I think he's the fabric of that team. Without him they don't win that (Cincinnati) game."
Craft had 6 steals against the Bearcats Thursday night, a NCAA Tournament record for Ohio St. His 94 takeaways for the season are another OSU record. His success in forcing turnovers may mean another team's demise, but there's one SU guard that thinks he can still get the best of him. Dion Waiters played Aaron Craft's AAU team in high school and said he will look to translate his prior success to the game tonight.
"I had 27 and 25 against him in 2 games. 2 games!"
Waiters' team lost both of those games however. Tonight we will see who'll be claiming bragging rights and a ticket to the Final Four..