Preview: #2 Ohio State vs. #6 Arizona

By Kyle Rowland on March 28, 2013 at 10:00a
The Rich Rodriguez good luck charm still applies to basketball, right?
Ohio State Buckeyes #2 Ohio State 28-7, 13-5 Big Ten Roster | Schedule 7:47 PM ET - TBS —— Staples Center Los Angeles, CA Arizona Wildcats #6 Arizona 27-7, 12-6 Pac-12 Roster | Schedule

In a region that has two new kids on the block, Ohio State and Arizona are the only remaining power programs. Wichita State and La Salle have had tournament success before, but it was so long ago that The Beatles, not Taylor Swift, were topping the charts.

There’s a region every year that becomes the ugly stepchild, resembling nothing close to seeds 1-4 advancing to the Sweet 16. The West Region had that potential on Selection Sunday, and sure enough it came through with several eye-popping upsets.

But Game 1 of Thursday night’s doubleheader features two friends – Thad Matta and Sean Miller – facing off with two excellent teams doing the battling on the court. The Buckeyes are arguably the hottest team in the country right now, winners of 10 straight, while the Wildcats have made mincemeat out of their two tourney opponents.

It gets a wee bit tougher for Arizona now. It’s had the easiest road to the Sweet 16, beating an 11 and 14 seed. But it’s not the Wildcats’ fault No. 3 seed New Mexico lost. It also doesn’t discount what Arizona has accomplished this season, which includes wins over Florida and Miami.

“It’s their time of year,” Miller said, referencing his group of veterans.

Now the Wildcats get a de facto home game in the regional semifinal – and final, if it advances. Arizona has seven players that hail from Southern California and a rabid fan base that can easily make the trip across the state border.

“Everyone can look back at the seeding and say whatever we want, but we’re really happy,” senior forward Solomon Hill said. “I wouldn’t want to change the fact that we’re on the West Coast. I wouldn’t trade our seed for anything right now. Now we have a chance to play in Los Angeles. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fans and this is as close to a home game as we’ll get.”

Ohio State hasn’t been out West for a decade, when they played at San Francisco en route to the Maui Invitational. The furthest west the Buckeyes have been since then is San Antonio, where they won the 2007 South Regional.

“Regular season, I think it’s hard to come and play one game with the time zone in terms of you’re just off a little bit,” Matta said. “We were fortunate enough to come out here and kind of get acclimated. We should be in good shape.”


When Ohio State and Arizona take the court Thursday night, the Buckeyes will be tasked with beating the best team on the West Coast, according to Matta. That is a tall order.

Despite a less than stellar Pac-12 campaign for the Wildcats, the statement does ring true. Oregon is the only other West Coast team left, and though Arizona failed to beat the Ducks, the Wildcats resume is better.

In the past 10 games, they’ve shot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc, an area of defense Ohio State struggles with. Height and rebounding also gives the Buckeyes concern.

Seven-foot freshman Kaleb Tarczewski, in particular, poses the biggest challenge – no pun intended. Amir Williams has been dreadful in recent games and Evan Ravenel doesn’t have the height to matchup. What Ravenel can do with the best of them, though, is bang bodies. He’s physical and won’t back down from a challenge.

The Big Ten is much more hard-nosed than the Pac-12, giving Ravenel an upper hand when it comes to defending in the post. Foul trouble has plagued Tarczewski this season.

“I’m kind of used to it,” he said. “I’ve always been bigger than everyone else, so I’m kind of used to getting those calls. But there’s great officials here, doing a good job.”

He was a ballyhooed recruit out of Massachusetts a year ago, a consensus top-five player. Tarczewski is averaging six points and six rebounds per game, but the adjustment to the college game has been tougher than anticipated. He added 35 pounds to his growing frame.

“I thought college basketball was going to be easy, and that’s definitely the farthest from the truth,” Tarczewski said. “Players, speed of the game, everything is just at a higher level. It was tough for me in the beginning of the year. I thought I could come to college basketball and beat everyone, but that’s not the case.”

In the tournament’s first weekend, Tarczewski scored 19 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Another imposing presence is Nick Johnson, a guard that is a disruptive force on defense.

Johnson has defensive DNA in his blood. His uncle is the late Dennis Johnson of Seattle SuperSonics and Boston Celtics lore.

“I take that personally, knowing that I’m the main defensive guy and my energy really affects the team,” Johnson said. “I’m taking it personally upon myself to do it every single game and show my team I’m playing really, really hard. It’s contagious.”

Alertness and anticipation are two assets Johnson possesses, which allow him to steal the ball and block a shot when offensive players least expect it. He limited Harvard’s Wesley Saunders, the Crimson’s leading scorer, to a nightmarish 1-of-11 shooting and eight points.

And don’t forget Mark Lyons. He’s Arizona’s motor, a do-everything guard that could be the difference-maker. He scored 50 points in the Wildcats’ two wins last week, converting 20 of 32 shot attempts.

“It always gets tougher the further you go in the tournament,” the man guarding him, Aaron Craft, said. “You play against great players and as a defender you always want to take away their go-to or whatever it is. When you play great players, they have more than one. He’s definitely one of those players. He can score in a variety of ways and get a shot off, which is always very tough.” 

Buckeye Breakdown

Rarely does Deshaun Thomas do something quietly. But that has been the case in the NCAA Tournament. He’s scored 24 and 22 points in back-to-back wins, though you wouldn’t know it by reading Ohio State news.

Thomas could be the best scorer Arizona has faced all season, something not lost on Miller.

“On offense, it's not like they’re a bad team on offense,” he said. “I think they're really good. They’re not as talented, maybe, as some of the most recent Ohio State teams, but they make up for it with really unselfishness and togetherness. They have a guy that gets 20 every night, Deshaun Thomas, who, from a scoring perspective, is as good as it gets.”

Thomas’ size, length and versatility make him a difficult player to prepare for and guard. He can shoot the 3, penetrate and post up. Thomas led the Big Ten in scoring and also feasted on the offensive glass.

During the current 10-game win streak, Thomas’ point output has dipped, but he’s making more than 50 percent of his baskets. He’s scored 14 or more points in 16 consecutive games.

Arizona isn’t trying to shut Thomas down, just merely limit his effectiveness and keep a handle on the other parts of his game, such as rebounding.

“He’s so different and unique as a player," Miller said. “It’s hard to describe how he plays.”

Get Smart

  • OSU 1-0 all-time against Arizona, defeating the Wildcats in the 1972 Bruin Classic at UCLA.
  • Thad Matta is 0-2 vs. Arizona as a head coach.
  • Ohio State is appearing in the Sweet 16 for a program-best fourth consecutive season.
  • Arizona is 13-7 all-time in NCAA Tournament games played in the state of California.
  • Kevin Harlan, Len Elmore, Reggie Miller and Lewis Johnson have the call.

An unrelated factor that helps Ohio State is its foul discipline. The Buckeyes rank near the top of teams that allow a low free-throw rate for opponents. That’s been a theme during Matta’s tenure in Columbus. It’s no coincidence that defense is the head coach’s hallmark.

“They don't foul,” Miller said. “His teams are always the best at not fouling. That’s one of the reasons they’re such a good defensive team and make you score from the field.”

It helps when you have one of the best defenders in the country on your team. Praise from opposing coaches and players have become the norm for Craft. He’s as disciplined as they come guarding aggressive ball handlers and shooters, always keeping his hands in view to get the benefit of the doubt from officials.

Opposing fans might have a severe distaste for Craft, but coaches respect and adore him.

“If he’s not one of your favorite players, then you don’t like college basketball," Miller said. “There are a lot of guys that play hard, but they’re limited. He has exceptional quickness, quick hands, they’re strong and he anticipates really well.”

4 A. Craft JR 6-2/190 10.0 3.4 4.7 G 2 M. Lyons SR 6-1/200 15.4 2.0 2.9
32 L. Smith Jr. JR 6-4/205 9.4 4.8 1.5 G 13 N. Johnson SO 6-3/200 11.6 3.5 3.3
12 S. Thompson SO 6-7/190 7.8 3.4 1.0 F 44 S. Hill SR 6-7/220 13.3 5.4 2.7
1 D. Thomas JR 6-7/225 19.7 6.1 1.3 F 3 K. Parrom SR 6-6/220 8.3 4.9 1.9
23 A. Williams SO 6-11/250 3.6 3.9 0.1 C 35 K. Tarczewski FR 7-0/255 6.6 6.2 0.4



Comments Show All Comments

NoVA Buckeye's picture

I almost forgot that RichRod i the HC at 'Zona now

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

cronimi's picture

Yup. And that Photoshop is priceless. Love it!

Run_Fido_Run's picture

So, 6-3 SG Nick Johnson is Zona's best lock-down defender. Who is going to check?
You'd figure it would be L. Smith, Jr. The way Smith has been shooting lately, though, you'd think Thad would be happy to occupy Johnson that way. But what's the alternative?
If they put Johnson on Craft, then Lenzelle will post up Lyons and feast on the offensive boards. Or, if they put Johnson on DT, then DT will post up Johnson and feast on the offensive boards.
Zona is beginning to look like a good matchup for the Buckeyes to me. They're prone to turn the ball over, with a PG who played four years as a SG. The Buckeyes do not score much from a "SG" position, which might minimize the impact of Zona's best defender. Zona's two bigs are freshmen. They haven't played a team with Ohio State's defensive prowess and intensity in months. 
I'm cautiously optimistic about tonight.

bhartman13's picture

I would think Johnson will cover Lenzelle or Sam Thompson.  It sounds like Hill will check DT.  If the Buckeyes can rebound well tonight and keep their 7 footer from getting 2nd chance points then I think it will be tough for Zona to beat tOSU.  I know Zona switches to zone at times so look out for that if tOSU is clanking too many shots from deep.
The Buckeyes are playing great team ball right now and that's what you need in March!
I'm on board with the cautiously optimistic feeling for tonight.  Go Bucks!!

BuckeyeBoyer85's picture

Good points. If you look at individual matchups, it would seem the Buckeyes have the advantage on the perimeter. Who is 'Zona going to put on Ross when he gets in? What about the Craft, Scott, Ross, Thomas, Ravenel lineup? How do they adjust to the different looks Matta can throw at them? Lots of questions for the Wildcats on defense. Couple this with the offense/defense battle that is Craft v. Lyons and Im with you on the cautious optimism.

Wayne Woodrow Hayes

LouGroza's picture

I do not see any major hurdles either. If they had a really athletic center it could be a problem. It seems Arizona does not present anything they haven't faced before.
But I differ in that I am optimistically cautious about tonights game...

Jack Fu's picture

Has Lenzelle posted up, like, ever?

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

Are you serious?  He loves to post up and is excellent in this position.

Read my entire screen name....

PhillyBuckeye27's picture

Not sure I would say Lenzelle is excellent at anything - more like serviceable or adequate....

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

He plays his role and is excellent within this role.  

Read my entire screen name....

RedStorm45's picture

Who have you been watching all year?

Maestro's picture

Crush the f*(&ers.  That is all.

vacuuming sucks

BuckeyeVet's picture

Succinct, brief, unambiguous, & to the point. I like your way with words.

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."          - Groucho Marx

"The recipient of Oyster's ONLY down vote".

oregonianbuckeye's picture

I am really worried about this game, and would have preferred the matchup with New Mexico. Gonzaga was the only other team that really 'scared' me in this region, along with Zona. This will essentially be a home game for them, and they are playing really well. Remember, they beat both Florida and the U this year. I think we'll win, but put the odds around 60%. I know we are playing well, but this is a really talented Zona team.

Idaho Helga's picture

I'm pretty worried about this game because of the home court atmosphere I think we'll see for  'Zona. and this game looks to be more of a challenge than the next one.  NOT that I'm looking ahead!

slippy's picture

You realize calling this 'essentially a home game' is about the same as calling a game in Philadelphia a home game for OSU, right?

Idaho Helga's picture

No, I live out west and we think nothing of traveling many miles to go to something.  I'm just stating that it's predicted to be an Arizona crowd.  I'll be very happy if I'm wrong!

slippy's picture

I don't doubt the crowd will be pro-Zona but I think it's a stretch calling it similar to a home game.  There's more to home court than crowd allegiance.

oregonianbuckeye's picture

I think a better comparison would be Chicago or Indianapolis for the Buckeyes, not Philly. I think we'd all agree that tOSU would have a 'home court' like crowd in those two cities. The Pac-12 has had the tournament in LA frequently in the past, and the team is used to playing there. 

tennbuckeye19's picture

From what I've read, Arizona's fans travel well and there are a lot of alumni in Southern California. I would expect the crowd to be overwhelmingly pro-Wildcat. However, you are right, most teams benefit from playing at home because of atmosphere, familiarity, student sections, and home cooking from refs. Hopefully Arizona won't have those things going for them tonight.

buckguyfan1's picture

Ravenel needs to have a good game...  Smith Jr. needs to make at least 3 3's...  Defense!  Lets Play...

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

I am pessimistic about the matchup tonight.  Our last game was our worst of the last 10, so we have to get back on our game and I am worried about which team will show up.  Arizona's size and shooting prowess scares me  They have about one of everything on their team, very balanced.  On offense they can beat us high and low so we need our best defensive game with good perimeter defense, solid denial to the post and everyone boxing out to limit them to single chances per trip.  On the other side of the ball, they have an excellent on ball defender and their athleticism and size will be tough in the paint.  I expect Arizona to go zone a lot tonight to make us attempt perimeter shoots, and if they do, we need to execute our offense, work the ball around and hit some shots.  If we can get them out of the zone, the best matchup will be Lyons on Craft and Craft will need to win this and either score, draw a foul, or penetrate and distribute.  

Read my entire screen name....

AJBor41's picture

I know the score and close game against ISU looks that way, but we shot over 50% from the field and 50% exactly from behind the arc.  We also caused 16 turnovers on D.  If that's "off our game", then teams should fear what "on our game" really is. 

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

I wasn't really talking about shooting percentage, moreso turnovers, fouls, and poor defense and rebounding.  Anyway, teams should fear our on game, we can beat anyone in the country with this game.

Read my entire screen name....

AJBor41's picture

Agreed, and it wasn't necessarily the number of turnovers, but the timing of them.  Rebounding was nearly nonexistent.  Amen to your last sentence.

NoVA Buckeye's picture

The poor rebounding had more to do with ISU's style of offense than the Buck's effort. Arizona will probably never run the Flying V once during the game.

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

True, but fundamentals of rebounding are to find your man, body up on him in a position between him and the basket.  While we were in position between ISU and the basket, we were not putting bodies on bodies.

Read my entire screen name....

AJBor41's picture

True. The deep ball rebounds were killing us.

BuckeyeSki's picture

Adderall is a psychostimulant medication that contains amphetamine, used for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

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ATXbucknut's picture

In 1995, Thad Matta and Sean Miller were assistants at Miami, OH and helped lead the Redhawks into the NCAA tourney. Miami pulled off an upset in the first round against...Arizona.  

blazers34's picture

These guys lost to UCLA 3 times this year?  The same UCLA that Minnesota crushed?
Man, Go Bucks

BME_Buckeye's picture

You do realize UCLA lost their starting PG who got injured during the Pac-12 semifinals against Arizona? He is their second best scorer so that may explain why Minnesota rolled over them so easily. 

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.


blazers34's picture

Actually I didn't know that.  

southernstatesbuckeye's picture

Put away the fears for tonight.  I've just now returned from traveling into this evening's timeline for a brief stop at the post game.  The Bucks have it covered and will get it done.
I have spoken.
The Time Traveler
Disclaimer: Do not use my future knowledge to enrich yourself financially, or the natural progression of time could be literally thrown into "alternate universe" status, which you do not want.  I happened to glimpse one of them where Harvard went on to win the national championship this year (yes, it was a horrid alternative). 

I like cookies.

buckguyfan1's picture

Will J. Peppers sign with the Buckeyes?

RBuck's picture

What are the winning lottery numbers for tonight?

Long live the southend.

osu07asu10's picture

Hahahahaha just noticed DickRod in the background. You guys are killing it with that and GTA for the buckeye guide to LA

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

thatlillefty's picture

It's finally game day, baby! I really like our chances in this match up. Craft has been locking down talented point guards all season and tonight's contest should be no different. Slam and Q have both stepped their games up to another level, and Q is a match up nightmare for opponents. DeShaun is gonna get his points too. So if the big guys can hit the boards, we should be alright.
So happy with the way this team has come together this season. This roster is not as talented as last year's or the year before's, but things just seem to working out at the right time. And I love how hard these guys play. No matter what happens tonight, it's been a great season.
Go bucks!

Jack Fu's picture

I worship at the alter of Kenpom, and he predicts a four-point OSU win. Good enough for me, though I am still terrified. Yeah, they've got some iffy losses, but wins over Florida and Miami are serious business.

740 BUCKEYE's picture

That pic of Miller, thought it was that Cake Boss guy from Jersey at a glance.

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

I'm liking the Buckeyes tonight 68-63

Class of 2010.

KBonay's picture

Just hope we don't get a whistle-happy ref.  Looking forward to seeing a big, physical game.

Dougger's picture

bruce pearl says they're gonna defend by committee on DT. I really think our size is comparable and they only get two more rebounds per game then we do.
Limit second chances and play great D to set up O. It's gonna be tough, but I don't think Aaron Craft has two rough games in a row - he's just too smart. 
(skip to 2:40 and replace every "Shaft" with "Craft")

I like football

RedStorm45's picture

Lyons is a little bit Burke-like.  Front court reminds me of Sparty though.  Will be tough either way.
Hill v. Thomas will be a huge matchup.

ATXbucknut's picture

Hot off the press...

kareemabduljacobb's picture

We have 2 common opponents this season w/ Zona...
OSU vs LBSU: 89-55
Zona Vs LBSU: 94-72
OSU vs Wash: 77-66
Zona Vs Wash:  A 57-53, H 70-52
Zona's best wins: Florida, Miami FL, SDSU
OSU's best wins: Indiana, Wisky 2x, MSU 2x, TsUn
Zona has the worst loss of the two teams, losing to USC (14-18) 89-78.

FWIW: The 'experts' pick the final 4 representative from the West region as followed:

Eamonn Brennan: Ohio State over La Salle
Fran Fraschilla: Ohio State over Wichita State
John Gasaway: Ohio State over Wichita State
Seth Greenberg: Ohio State over Wichita State
Andy Katz: Ohio State over Wichita State
Jason King: Arizona over Wichita State
Myron Medcalf: Ohio State over Wichita State
Dana O'Neil: Ohio State over La Salle
Bruce Pearl: Arizona over Ohio State -- He musta been drunk as they can't play in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8.
Robbi Pickeral: Ohio State over Wichita State
Dick Vitale: Ohio State over Wichita State 

JKH1232's picture

Eh, maybe Pearl just means that whoever wins Arizona over OSU wins the region.  Like, who cares between Wichita State and La Salle?

NoVA Buckeye's picture

I guess Bruce is still mad that Aaron got him fired.

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

okiebuck's picture

Like cream; the Buckeyes will rise to the top tonight; 73-62.

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

NoVA Buckeye's picture

Oh god that's so bad but at the same time so clever

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.