(1) Syracuse vs. (2) Ohio State Preview
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
Follow @Yannis KoutroupisYannis Koutroupis
(1) Syracuse Orange
In quite possibly the best game of the tournament so far, the Orange found a way to outlast the Wisconsin Badgers 64-63 to move onto the Elite 8. The Badgers had the Orange on the brink of elimination thanks to their three-point shooting. They made 14-of-27 from distance, but scored just one field goal in the final 7 minutes. Meanwhile, the Orange had more success against their defense than any other team this season has. They shot 55 percent from the field and beyond the arc. Four different players scored in double figures, a result of well-balanced shot distribution. Rakeem Christmas did not build off of his solid performance against Vanderbilt. He saw seldom used center Baye Keita step up, an encouraging sign if his struggles continue, as he dealt with constant foul trouble. Against Ohio State the Orange will need them both to play better than they have all year because Jared Sullinger will undoubtedly be on the attack with the Final Four insight.
(2) Ohio State Buckeyes
From very early on in the ball game it was clear that the Cincinnati Bearcats had no answer for Jared Sullinger or Deshaun Thomas, so the Buckeyes rode them both to a 81-66 victory. Sullinger thoroughly outperformed Yancy Gates, putting up 23 points and 11 rebounds to his seven and five. Thomas scored a game-high 26, including three threes, while grabbing seven boards. Lenzell Smith Jr. finally came to life as well, shooting 6-7 from the field for 15 on the night. Defensively the Buckeyes forced 18 turnovers, led by Aaron Craft’s six steals. They made 27 trips to the free throw line. They should make it a point of emphasis to try to do the same against the Orange in the Elite Eight. Sullinger is going to have a serious advantage inside, which will eventually open up things for everybody else. They have to be smart with the three ball and make sure that they work inside and then out for the entire game. A big game from William Buford, who was off against the Bearcats, could be the difference maker that gets the Buckeyes into the Final Four.
HOOPSWORLD’s pick: Ohio State. Without Fab Melo inside, we expect Jared Sullinger to wreck havoc against the Orange and take his team another step closer towards a national championship.
Who do you think is going win? Chime in by leaving a comment below!