Ohio State vs. Arizona: Wildcats Pose Threat to Buckeyes in Sweet 16

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Ohio State vs. Arizona: Wildcats Pose Threat to Buckeyes in Sweet 16
Harry How/Getty Images

It may be easy to quickly dismiss underdog Arizona against No. 2 seed Ohio State in the Sweet 16.

After all, the Wildcats lost to Cal, Colorado, USC and UCLA (twice) in the second half of the season. Ohio State has won its last 10 games, including victories over Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan State (twice).

But a closer look shows that Arizona has a shot.

First of all, the Wildcats may have ranked 84th in field-goal percentage during the regular season, but they rank 25th in offensive efficiency, per TeamRankings.com. Their offensive efficiency over their last three games would have ranked eighth in the nation over the course of the 2012-2013 campaign. 

The Wildcats also have a dynamic scoring weapon in senior guard Mark Lyons, who averaged 15.4 points during the regular season and has racked up a combined 50 points against Belmont and Iona in the NCAA tournament.

There's also Arizona's advantage in rebounding. The Wildcats rank 14th in the nation in rebounding percentage this season. The Buckeyes rank 69th. Iowa State (ranked 46th in rebounding rate) cleaned up on the glass against the Buckeyes in the round of 32, 35-20. That included grabbing 12 offensive rebounds.

Harry How/Getty Images
Kaleb Tarczewski (left) and Solomon Hill (right) combine to give Arizona an advantage on the glass.

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Ohio State obviously has the advantage on defense, and Aaron Craft could prove to be the difference-maker once again matched up against Lyons. But it's not out of the question that the Wildcats hang around in this game if the offense can continue to flow and they crash the glass. 

After all, Iowa State didn't shoot as well as Ohio State in the round of 32, nor did the Cyclones win the turnover battle (16 turnovers), yet Ohio State needed a last-second three-pointer by Craft to advance.

Also, the Cyclones ranked 168th in free-throw attempts per game this season, but they were able to shoot 23 free throws against Ohio State. If the Wildcats get to the line like Iowa State did, they stand an even better chance to upset the Buckeyes.

One more thing: Another reason the Wildcats rank well in offensive efficiency is because they can knock down the three-point shot. They rank 40th in the nation in three-point percentage. 

You may remember Iowa State going 12-of-25 from downtown against the Buckeyes. That's not a coincidence. The Buckeyes rank 83rd in opponents' three-point percentage this season.

All said, Lyons will probably have to turn in at least an above-average performance for the Wildcats to advance, even if the club does other things right. He's a huge part of this matchup.

 

Don't forget to print out your bracket and follow along with the live bracketFollow all the exciting NCAA tournament action with March Madness Live.


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