It seems a little strange to have a West regional final held in the Staples Center with no team's from the west coast, but here we are with an intriguing matchup between the No. 2 seed Ohio State Buckeyes and the No. 9 seed Wichita State Shockers.
The Buckeyes have played the most entertaining games of the tournament.
Two of their wins have come down to the wire. Heroic three-point shots in the waning seconds have given them a pair of thrilling three-point wins over Iowa State and Arizona.
The Shockers have played only one close game in the tournament, and that was their six-point win over top-seed Gonzaga. Their run has been impressive, but the Buckeyes' defense will present them with their stiffest challenge yet.
Even though this game doesn't feature sure-fire lottery picks in the NBA Draft, it is still very interesting with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
Here are the particulars:
When: Saturday, March 30 at 7:05 p.m. ET
Where: Staples Center in Los Angeles
TV: CBS Sports
Spread Info: Ohio States is favored (-6), per OddsShark.com
Biggest Key to Each Team's Success So Far
Ohio State—Balanced Scoring
For most of the season, the Buckeyes had depended on Deshaun Thomas to carry them offensively. Until recently, he was the only Buckeyes player averaging double figures in scoring.
This team always defends well, but they have turned the corner because other players are stepping up as scoring options to support Thomas.
Aaron Craft had 18 points against Iowa State and 13 against Arizona. LaQuinton Ross also had 17 points in both of those games.
Craft and Ross are making their points count in crucial moments. Both have drained game-winning shots in the team's last two games.
It's not that Thomas has disappeared; he's on his way to all-tournament honors, averaging 22 points per game. It's just that now he's getting help—and that makes the Buckeyes very dangerous.
Wichita State—Defensive Intensity
The Shockers' run has been amazing because they have found a way to win in different ways. Against Gonzaga, they shot lights out from three-point range.
They made 14-of-28 shots from deep and shot 50 percent from the floor overall. Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker were 8-of-15 from long distance in that game.
But before you go thinking they have to be blazing hot to win, consider the fact that they made just 2-of-20 from beyond the arc against Pittsburgh in the round of 64.
Against LaSalle, their rebounding was huge. They pounded the Explorers 44-23 on the glass.
The one constant for the Shockers is their defense. They have held every opponent to just 35 percent shooting from the field.
The Buckeyes get tremendous credit for their ability to get stops, but the Shockers have been every bit as good—if not better.
Ohio State—Sam Thompson
The sophomore from Chicago is one of the most athletic players in the country. At 6'7", he's a long and disruptive defender and a great finisher.
If he can get transition opportunities and he throws down some of the fantastic dunks we've seen from him this season, then it could ignite the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is 9-1 when Thompson scores 10 points or more.
Wichita State—Ehimen Orukpe
The 7-foot senior from Nigeria hasn't been a major factor statistically for the Shockers in the tournament, but his size and length can be an asset as a rim protector and rebounder.
During the season he averaged 1.6 blocked shots per game, but he often picks up early fouls.
If he can stay on the floor and make an impact as a defensive presence and rebounder, then he could help create transition opportunities for his team.
In a game that figures to be low scoring, these opportunities will be precious.
It is hard to go against the Shockers at this point, but I'm not sure there is another team playing better team basketball than the Buckeyes.
The Louisville Cardinals are far more talented man-for-man, but the Buckeyes as a unit have been excellent over the last month.
They will win 57-50
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