No. 6 Arizona and No. 2 Ohio State meet in Los Angeles on Thursday for the chance to advance to the Elite Eight. It is a matchup of preseason top 12 teams in both the AP and Coaches polls. Arizona had a somewhat disappointing end to its season, while Ohio State capped off its year with a Big Ten Tournament championship.
Neither team has played a team with a single-digit seeding thus far in the tournament, so this will be a huge test for both teams. Each is talented and experienced, but there are two key things that Ohio State must do in order to move on to the next round.
In its first-round game, Ohio State beat Iona handily while winning the rebounding battle 41-32. In its tightly-contested second-round game with Iowa State, Ohio State was out-rebounded by 15 and it nearly cost the Buckeyes the game.
Ohio State struggled to rebound in its seven regular-season losses as well. It won the rebounding battle just once, besting Michigan by one in a two-point game.
In its two biggest losses of the season, by 19 to Illinois and by 22 to Wisconsin, Ohio State was out-rebounded by a combined 17 boards.
Ohio State must take care of the glass against an Arizona team that rebounded extremely well during the opening weekend of the tournament. The Wildcats out-rebounded Belmont by 27 and Harvard by eight. Their ability to crash the offensive glass gives them the opportunity to gain extra possessions and second-chance points.
The other area where Ohio State must have success in order to beat Arizona is from behind the arc. The Buckeyes shot a lower three-point percentage than their opponent in six of their seven losses this season.
Similarly, the Wildcats struggled against the three in their losses this season. In those seven games, Arizona's opponents shot a combined 39-of-88 from the arc, or 44.3 percent. For reference, Creighton, the top three-point shooting team in the country this season, shot 42.1 percent from the arc.
Ohio State shot very well from deep in the opening weekend of the tournament, going a combined 16-of-33 (48.5 percent) against Iona and Iowa State. Continuing that trend will be important against an Arizona team that is vulnerable against the deep ball.
Ohio State came into the Tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country and has won its last 10 games. The Buckeyes will continue that trend against the Wildcats. Arizona will not be able to punish Ohio State on the boards like it did against smaller Belmont and Harvard teams. OSU will shoot the ball well and advance to the Elite Eight.