The Arizona Wildcats play Ohio State in a Sweet 16 game Thursday from Los Angeles, and here are 16 numbers to help get you ready:
4 — Ranking of the West on anybody’s list of the toughest of the four NCAA regionals. “If it’s the worst regional, good, great. I’m glad I’m here,” said Arizona coach Sean Miller. “I mean, the thing about the tournament is nobody looks back and says, ‘Boy, what an easy road or hard road.’ You either advanced or you didn’t.”
7.1 — Percent shooting before the first media timeout for Arizona’s first two NCAA opponents (1 of 14). Those quick starts have snuffed the upset hopes of two underdogs and are the reason why the Wildcats have yet to trail in the tournament.
10 — The minimum number of points that Ohio State will win by in both games at the West regional, as predicted by Myron Medcalf of ESPN.com.
He writes: “I just think the Buckeyes are two steps above the remaining teams in the West Region. Check the stats. Ohio State has been the Big Ten’s best team overall for more than a month. It has the leadership of Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas. The Buckeyes aren’t a two-man show, though. LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott and others have been crucial contributors, too. The Buckeyes are playing solid defense. And they’ve been one of America’s toughest teams for a lengthy stretch. Ohio State won’t have many struggles at Staples Center.”
It is worth noting he also picked the Pac-12 to go 0-5 in its opening games last week. The league went 3-2 and has two teams (Arizona, Oregon) in the Sweet 16.
10.5 — Turnovers per game for Ohio State, which ranks as the eighth-best mark in the country. Point guard Aaron Craft is a superb floor general who doesn’t often make silly mistakes with the ball. Ohio State probably won’t give up anything easy, so the Wildcats’ offense is going to have to be at max efficiency in the half-court.
12-2-1 — Miller’s record against the spread in his past 15 NCAA Tournament games, per The Sporting News. Can’t say he doesn’t get his teams ready for big games.
14 — Years it had been since Arizona had a player who compiled more than 100 assists and 60 steals in the same season. Jason Terry (159/80) did it in 1998-99; Nick Johnson (111/63) surpassed those marks this season.
19.7 — Scoring average of Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas, who will be the most gifted offensive player on the court Thursday. He’s 6-7, 215 pounds, capable of playing inside and outside. Arizona’s Solomon Hill has similar size and mismatch ability, too, and Hill says he’ll get the primary defensive assignment for what should be a great head-to-head battle. Thomas made 5 of 7 3-point shots in his first two NCAA Tournament games this season.
Said Thomas of Hill: “He’s a mismatch nightmare out there at 6-7, long, can play the post, can shoot the three. He’s a great player.”
28 — Combined margin by which Arizona outscored Belmont and Harvard, two vertically challenged teams, in the paint last week. Those easy buckets will be in limited supply against the physical Buckeyes, even when they go with a small lineup that features 6-7 Deshaun Thomas at center.
39.5 — Defensive field goal percentage allowed by Ohio State, which probably will be the best defensive team the Cats have seen this season. Miller credits point guards Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott, who often are in the lineup together, creating a fearsome duo of perimeter defense. “Those two guys, they really hawk the ball,” he said. “It’s like having two shut down cornerbacks in football. It makes the game easier for the rest of the defense.”
43 — Margin of victory for Ohio State in the only other basketball meeting between the schools. The previous meeting also was in Los Angeles, for the Bruin Classic, on Dec. 29, 1971. OSU Hall of Famer Allan Hornyak poured in 27 points in a 90-47 victory. The sixth-ranked Buckeyes advanced in the tourney to play a highly anticipated game against Bill Walton-led UCLA but it wasn’t a contest. The No. 1 Bruins cruised 79-53 en route to an undefeated season.
44.2 — Percent chance of Arizona beating Ohio State, according to Nate Silver’s blog on the NYTimes.com. He gives the Wildcats a 1.8 percent chance of winning it all, up from 0.7 percent before the tournament.
60 — Minutes, more or less, that Miller talked to Ohio State coach Thad Matta — whom Miller calls his best friend — when he was considering leaving Xavier to take the Arizona job.
“I stepped outside of a restaurant. I came back in, and my wife said, ‘What is he going to do?’” Matta recalled.
“And I said, ‘I have no idea. I’ve never seen a guy jump from one side of the fence to the other as many times as he did.’ I think the thing that intrigued him was Arizona is one of the, if not the, top jobs on the West Coast. You’ve got your UCLAs, your Gonzagas, Washington. I know programs are up and coming now, but I think that was something that he felt pretty strong about in terms of just the reputation of what Coach Olson had built there.”
63.3 percent — Shooting percentage of Arizona freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski (31 of 49) over the past 10 games. He is averaging 8.3 points and 7.8 rebounds in that span. “Kaleb is really coming along. Sometimes I wish we could do a better job of getting him the ball as he progressed,” Miller said. “He’s such a great kid and teammate. Sometimes he’s open and he would like to get the ball but he doesn’t, and it may bother him inside but it doesn’t show.”
Question is: When Ohio State goes with its small lineup, which has been so effective lately, will Miller match up by pulling Tarczewski, who isn’t effective guarding a perimeter-oriented post player? Or will Miller keep Tarczewski in, look for the advantage on offense and make Matta react to him?
138 – Career games at Arizona for senior forward Solomon Hill. If the Cats advance to play Saturday, he’ll pass Kyle Fogg (139 games) at the top of UA’s career list.
245 — Career steals by Ohio State junior Aaron Craft, the most in school history. What Arizona doesn’t want to see is Craft forcing turnovers from Mark Lyons just across halfcourt that lead to quick points the other way (see, Jordan Adams, UCLA, Pac-12 tournament).
$350 — Dollars that Miller owes Matta from their time together as assistants at Miami of Ohio in the 1994-95 season. Miller took a job as an assistant at Pitt after the season.
“He had owed me about $350 for all the lunches the time he had forgotten his wallet,” Matta said. “So as he’s walking out, he has his box. He said, ‘Hey, here’s what I’m going to. Call adidas, and you can have my money. I didn’t spend it all, and it’s cost free. So he walks out the door; I called adidas.
“I said, ‘This is Sean Miller;’ they said, ‘You no longer work at Miami University.’ So he got me again. I’ve never been able to recover that money from him.”