Ohio State vs. Syracuse: 3 Keys to Buckeyes Punching Ticket to Final Four

Michael DixonAnalyst IIIMarch 24, 2012

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 22:  Jared Sullinger #0 and Shannon Scott #3 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts after a play against the Cincinnati Bearcats during their 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball East Regional Semifinal game at TD Garden on March 22, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

While a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup is about as good as you can get for a regional final, the Eastern final has one clear superior team, the Ohio State Buckeyes. If they follow this strategy against Syracuse, they will be cutting the nets down on Saturday. 


Expose Fab Melo's Absence

Make no mistake, even with Melo the Buckeyes are a better team than the Orange, no matter what the rankings say. Without Melo, Syracuse is lacking an inside presence to do anything against Jared Sullinger. 

Sullinger is just a bulky presence in the middle of the paint that Syracuse will not have an answer to. The Orange have not played a team that really had the guns to make Melo being off the court painful. Thus, they have survived, even if only by a little. 

The Buckeyes are that team. If they come out with only one strategy and game plan, it needs to be to give the Orange a heavy dose of Sullinger. 


Move it Around Well

While we're at it, this would also by my advice to Syracuse, but it's particularly important for Ohio State. They have such a strong advantage on the inside, even without Sullinger. To expose that, the Buckeyes need to move the ball around and get the Syracuse defenders chasing the perimeter. Over the course of 35 seconds, an open shot will be there. 

Really, this is another way of saying "don't panic." Basketball is a game of plenty of swings, and Ohio State is at it's best moving the ball around, playing a half-court style. If they try to run and rush shots, Syracuse has a great chance at winning. If the Buckeyes move it around, they'll win. 


Force Syracuse's Hand

On the perimeter, Ohio State has a distinct advantage when they're on defense. They have Aaron Craft, who will take the opposition's guards out of the game better than any player in the country. If you don't believe me, ask LeBron James

Aaron Craft best defensive perimeter and maybe all around in college ball!

— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 23, 2012

The goal for Ohio State needs to be to attack the ball handler on the outside. That will force quick, bad decisions, which will lead to turnovers. Syracuse moves the ball well, so it's important to have a player like Craft forcing things. That will take away a big part of Syracuse's game, which is moving the ball around. 

The Orange can't afford to turn the ball over much—if at all—in this one. If Craft is going for turnovers and relying on the muscle down below to bail him out when things don't work, the Buckeyes and their fans might as well book their flights to New Orleans now.