Wichita State vs. Ohio State: Breakdown and Prediction for Elite Eight Matchup
The Ohio State Buckeyes and Wichita State Shockers have survived the most crazy of regions in the 2013 NCAA tournament. They both now stand one win away from being one of the final four teams in all of college basketball.
The resulting game is sure to get wild.
The Buckeyes have been no stranger to close calls. Aaron Craft nailed a game-winning three against Iowa State to stamp their ticket to the Sweet 16. They followed up that performance with another game-winner from LaQuinton Ross to beat the Arizona Wildcats to get to this point.
The Shockers have been the surprise team of the tournament and are now the lowest seed remaining. After blowing out Pittsburgh in the round of 64, they stunned top-seeded Gonzaga and ran right through fellow Cinderella La Salle to punch their ticket to the Elite Eight.
So will Ohio State pull out another close one? Can Wichita State continue to shoot lights-out and overwhelm the Buckeyes?
Read on for keys to the game for both teams and a final prediction for this intriguing regional final.
Wichita State Key to Victory: Stop Aaron Craft
Beating the Buckeyes is simple really. Stop Aaron Craft, and you win the game.
Ok, so that's a lot easier said than done. The Buckeyes haven't lost a game since they were blown out by Wisconsin in Madison in February. In that game, Craft went for just four points on 2-of-9 shooting with only one assist. The Buckeyes managed just 49 points.
The Buckeyes haven't looked back since that blowout loss, and Craft has been the man behind their success. Deshaun Thomas leads the team in scoring, but it's Craft's driving and dish ability that sets everything up for the Buckeyes.
Wichita State must find a way to keep Craft out of the paint. He's only a 30 percent shooter from three-point range on the season so they want him on the perimeter as much as possible.
If they can slow Aaron Craft, they'll stall the offense enough to keep up and could win the game down the stretch.
Ohio State Key to Victory: Defend the Perimeter and Hit the Glass
The Buckeyes must do two things to end Wichita State's improbable run. Hit the boards hard and close out on the perimeter.
The Shockers aren't just a one-trick pony. They beat Pittsburgh in the round of 64 despite going 2-of-20 from beyond the arc. However, they depended heavily on the deep ball against Gonzaga and went 14-of-28 in the win.
The next round they outworked La Salle on the glass, gaining a 44-23 advantage on the boards. The Buckeyes can't afford to get outworked like that.
The Shockers will bring plenty of energy to the table. If they are able to shoot like they did against Gonzaga, that could spell doom for the Buckeyes. Boxing out on the inside while still effectively closing out on the perimeter will be huge if Ohio State wants to advance.
Prediction: Ohio State 75, Wichita State 65
The Shockers have made it too far to be completely discounted now, but the Buckeyes have to be the favorite here.
Who ya got?
Malcolm Armstead (18 points, six rebounds and four assists against La Salle) gives them a shot going against Craft, but it's unlikely the Shockers can keep up their offensive output from earlier rounds. They've shot 44 percent as a team this season, and eventually they have to cool down.
If they do cool down, the question becomes whether or not they have the defense to shut down Craft and, by extension, Thomas.
That's a task that no one has been able to do in the tournament thus far, and Ohio State has proven it can execute down the stretch. Expect Wichita State to come out guns a-blazing in the first half before Ohio State outpaces them down the stretch.
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