LOS ANGELES — I’m a bit conflicted and have no conviction about a prediction in today’s Arizona-Ohio State game in the Sweet 16.
Arizona is playing its best ball of the season. Ohio State is, too, having won 10 in a row, including three over teams ranked in the top 10.
Arizona has scoring point guard Mark Lyons, averaging 25 points in two tournament games. Ohio State has defensive ace Aaron Craft and a supporting cast that makes the Buckeyes one of the best defensive teams in the country.
Arizona has size, led with 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski. Ohio State has found success going small without a true post. How will the coaches handle that chess move? Defensively, Tarczewski can’t really handle a mobile, face-up post when the Buckeyes go small. But the Bucks probably can’t handle Zeus down low. Does UA coach Sean Miller adjust to Ohio State’s Thad Matta, or does Thad Matta adjust to Miller’s lineup?
Arizona has sometimes struggled to defend the 3-point shot (but not lately). Ohio State isn’t a great shooting team.
And then there is the battle of versatile and tough 6-7 forwards Solomon Hill and Deshaun Thomas.
It’s a fascinating overall matchup, certainly big-boy basketball, with the winner advancing on to the favorite’s role against the winner of La Salle-Wichita State, with a Final Four berth on the line.
So, after all that, who wins?
Arizona’s offense flowed nicely last week, but that was against Belmont and Harvard. For most of the season, we’ve seen the Wildcats have in-game lulls on offense, sometimes just a hiccup of a few minutes, sometimes a full-on drought of several minutes.
I’m going to give a slight edge to Ohio State’s defense making Arizona look uncomfortable on offense for just long enough today from the Staples Center.
Ohio State 70, Arizona 65.