Ohio State vs. Syracuse: Buckeyes Will End Orange's Dramatic Run

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterMarch 24, 2012

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 22:  Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts after a basket against 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

The basketball gods have played a not-insignificant role in Syracuse's run to the Elite Eight.

Think back to the Orange's Round of 64 tilt against UNC-Asheville, which was marred by several questionable calls that all happened to go in favor of the Orange. The Bulldogs were effectively robbed of a fair chance to be the first No. 16 seed to ever to upset a No. 1 seed.

Syracuse didn't rely on luck or awful officiating to beat Wisconsin on Thursday night in the Sweet 16, but the Orange did benefit from some truly baffling offense on the part of the Badgers in the final seconds. With the clock winding down, Wisconsin chose to improvise rather than running a set play, resulting in a doomed effort to take the lead.

But the Orange don't care about what kind of winds have carried them this far. All that matters is that they're in the Elite Eight, and that the Ohio State Buckeyes are standing in their way to the Final Four.

The Buckeyes are not a team that will get out of the way without a fight. In fact, Syracuse is about to go up against the toughest opponent it's faced all season. 

Ohio State is dangerous because of the wreckage it can inflict around the basket. Jared Sullinger is the best low-post player in college basketball, and Deshaun Thomas has been on a roll ever since the start of the NCAA Tournament. He and Sullinger represent a dynamic duo that will be difficult to stop.

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 15:  Deshaun Thomas #1 and Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes react after a play against the Loyola Greyhounds during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Consol Energy Center on March 15, 2012
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

You'd feel a lot better about Syracuse's chances of protecting the basket from sirs Sullinger and Thomas if Fab Melo were still around, but he's not. The Orange have been able to make it this far without him, but the Buckeyes are a team that can exploit Melo's absence unlike any of the three teams Syracuse has faced and defeated to get to this point. 

Ohio State's ability to get high-percentage baskets will limit Syracuse's ability to force turnovers and to get out in transition. The clamps will be put on the Orange's offensive output if they have to get the bulk of their buckets out of their half-court offense, and that's going to be a problem against Ohio State. The Buckeyes' tough man-to-man defense made them one of the best defensive teams in the country, and Syracuse doesn't have the personnel to overcome Ohio State's defense with any sort of consistency.

Syracuse is too deep and too well-coached to get blown out at the hands of the Buckeyes. On the contrary, this is going to be a very tough, very hard-fought game. The deal-breaker will be the work done by Sullinger and Thomas around the basket, and things will only be more difficult for Syracuse if Ohio State's shooters are hitting from distance like they were from Cincinnati.

It's a tough matchup for a Syracuse squad that has done well to get this far without Melo. To get any further, the Orange are going to need more help from the basketball gods.

Prediction: Ohio State by six

 

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