Arizona +4 (-115) and Ohio State -4 (-105)

These two teams have taken different paths to the sweet sixteen. Ohio State had a tough matchup with Iowa State in the 3rd round and played hard to grind out a win. Arizona had a surprisingly easy time defeating Belmont in a game many people had predicted a loss for the Wildcats. Then they faced 1st round upset winner Harvard who had won their first NCAA tournament game ever. Arizona quickly defeated Harvard in the third round in a game that was never close. Will Arizona continue to stomp out the competition or will they struggle playing against a physically superior team compared to their last two opponents?

Mark Lyons led Arizona in scoring with a career high 27 points and the Wildcats showed their physical superiority throughout their blowout of Harvard. Arizona’s defense forced Harvard to miss their first 13 shots and 20 of their first 22. They used their superior size and strength to gain the easy victory. It remains to be seen whether or not these two relatively easy games affects the Wildcats in a positive or a negative manner.

2 seeded Ohio State did not have the same path as their opponents on Thursday. They faced a tough Iowa State team that many predicted were fully capable of pulling off the upset. Ohio State had the ball with a chance to either win the game or take it to overtime as veteran guard Aaron Craft dribbled with time winding down. This came moments after Craft took steps towards becoming the goat of the game by missing 2 front ends of the one and one and a jump shot in the closing minutes. However after Iowa State knocked the ball out of bounds the ball again ended up in Crafts hands. During the preceding timeout Iowa State switched their defensive assignments to take the ball out of Ohio State star guard Deshaun Thomas’s hands. This is why Craft found himself all alone dribbling for what seemed like an eternity. He stepped into a contested 3 point shot and knocked it down for the win as Ohio State moved on. It was another clutch play for the veteran who always seems to do what’s best for the team.

These two teams are evenly matched in a lot of ways. They are 11th and 13th in the RPI. They both like to play at similar paces and both play pressure defense. With Craft and Thomas Ohio State has the edge in experience and ability in the backcourt and that is usually the key in close games. Arizona plays a little deeper and is capable from getting production from a variety of players. Guard Mark Lyons and senior forward Solomon Hill will be asked to continue the production they had during the season and the tournament so far.

This game is truly as toss-up. Both teams are evenly matched however Ohio St has an edge in the backcourt and overall experience. Arizona’s easy path thus far will not benefit them in this one.

Ray's Free Pick: Take Ohio State -4

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