The Ohio State Buckeyes have battled their way into the Sweet 16 of the 2013 NCAA tournament, with a bit of good fortune and favorable calls to help them through Rounds 2 and 3.
Now the No. 2 seed will be matched up against the No. 6-seeded Arizona Wildcats, a vastly underrated opponent that seems to be in contention for the national title every year.
If OSU is going to make it to the Elite Eight in the West region, here are a few players who will need to step up in this game, plus one superstar to watch out for.
Sam Thompson, F, Ohio State
Thompson had a breakout game against the Iona Gaels to open the tourney, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, plus chipping in two assists, a steal and a block on the way to a 95-70 victory.
The sophomore forward only averaged 7.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.0 assist per game during the 2012-13 campaign, so his performance was truly shocking.
He took a minor step back against the Iowa State Cylcones in the third round, contributing just seven points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals in 31 minutes.
If Thompson can raise his scoring numbers to complement stars Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas, it would add a whole new dimension to the Buckeyes’ offense.
Keep a close eye on this swingman and see if he is able to make a big contribution on the scoreboard against the Wildcats, as it could be the difference between a win and a loss for OSU.
Mark Lyons, G, Arizona
Lyons is a legitimate superstar and has the ability to lead Arizona to a championship.
The 6’1” senior has been dominant during the opening rounds of this event, scoring 50 points on 20-of-32 shooting—including a blistering six of 13 from three-point land.
If he’s able to keep filling it up against the Buckeyes, the Wildcats will have a great shot to advance into the Elite Eight and pull off the upset.
However, one of the best defenders and most clutch players in the entire tournament, Aaron Craft, will be marking Lyons.
Let’s take a closer look at the Buckeyes’ star guard.
Aaron Craft, G, Ohio State
Craft nearly cost the Buckeyes a chance to participate in this game with his poor free-throw shooting down the stretch, but made up for it by drawing a controversial charging call and then hitting one of the most clutch three-pointers you will ever see.
The 6’2” point guard patiently dribbled out the clock at the top of the arc before rising up and firing over the defender to ice the game.
Craft proved that while his free-throw mechanics may be questionable at times, he’s a leader and has ice running through his veins.
Couple that with being one of the nation’s top defenders on the perimeter, and you have one of the most complete players who is perfectly suited for a deep March Madness run.
If he’s able to contain Lyons—a tough mission, but one that Craft will willingly accept—there is no doubting that OSU will walk out of its Sweet 16 matchup as victors.