After winning through their early round games, Ohio State and Arizona are set to do battle in an epic Sweet 16 matchup—with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line.
The No. 6 seed Wildcats have had a relatively easy run to the final 16—defeating the No. 11 seed Belmont and No. 14 Harvard, respectively. However, they'll face a seriously big test here against the No. 2 seed Ohio State, who thrashed Iona and then held off Iowa State.
It's shaping up to be a very special Sweet 16 matchup that could fall either way, with certain X-factors likely to make the difference.
Read on to see the biggest X-factors to watch for here.
Aaron Craft, Ohio State Buckeyes
After last week's heroics, Aaron Craft needs no introduction as to how important he can be for the Buckeyes in their tournament run. But against the Wildcats of all teams, Craft can have a huge impact on this game with his defensive play against star guard Mark Lyons.
We'll touch on Lyons in a minute, but Craft's ability to force turnovers can be key to shutting down the Wildcats offense here and getting the Buckeyes rolling in transition.
Craft hasn't come close to his average of 10.0 points, 4.7 assists and 2.1 steals in the tournament so far; so if he can do that here, expect the Buckeyes to be tough to beat.
Mark Lyons, Arizona Wildcats
If any man is going to turn the game for the Wildcats against Ohio State, it's going to Mark Lyons, who has been on fire in the tournament so far. Lyons hit 23 points against Belmont and then chalked up 27 in the win over Harvard, and he'll no doubt need to the same again here for Arizona.
Lyons must eliminate the turnovers from his game here—especially up against Craft—if the Wildcats are going to progress here, with the guard coughing the ball up far too often this season.
Currently shooting at 0.620 percent from the field and 0.465 from deep in March Madness, Lyons has the offensive skill required to help the Wildcats keep pace with the Buckeyes in this one.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State Buckeyes
It's hard to talk about the Buckeyes and not mention Deshaun Thomas, who has been simply prolific going forward for them this season. The star junior has averaged 19.7 points and 6.1 rebounds this season but has somehow better those numbers in the NCAA tournament so far.
Thomas chalked up 24 points against Iona and 22 points against Iowa State, and if he continues to hit those type of numbers here, expect the Buckeyes to be tough to stop.
Look for Thomas to establish himself inside early before becoming a threat outside the key through much of the second half as well. If Arizona can shut him down, they'll definitely be in with a real chance of walking away with a victory here.
Solomon Hill, Arizona Wildcats
But if you're looking for a real game-changer who won't necessarily get all the hype that the other guys in this list get, then Solomon Hill is the man to watch for.
The Wildcats forward has been consistently strong all year—averaging 13.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists—and will look to produce those numbers again in this Sweet 16 matchup.
But perhaps the biggest impact that Hill could have is on the defensive end, where he'll look to shut Thomas out of the game. Hill is a strong defense both inside and outside and can definitely match it with the Buckeyes star—something that could well change the outcome of this one.
Which players do you think are the biggest X-factors in this one?
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