Thursday March 22 9:15 p.m. EST on CBS
NCAA Basketball Spread: Ohio State -7.5
Four teams from the state of Ohio are in the Sweet Sixteen this year. Never before has there been more than three teams from one state in the Sweet Sixteen. Two of the Ohio teams will square off in this East Region matchup. Ohio State has failed to get past the Sweet Sixteen the last couple years. Can they advance to the Elite Eight or will the Bearcats pull off the upset?
Cincinnati comes into this one with an impressive 26-10 record. The Bearcats have recovered from their early season brawl against Xavier to put together a great season. Mick Cronin deserves a lot of credit for bringing this team together through a difficult time. Their Round of 32 win over Florida State showed the toughness of this team. The Bearcats actually outrebounded the Seminoles. They also forced 17 turnovers, which was the difference in the game. Cincinnati usually struggles from the stripe, but they knocked down 19 of 23 from the free throw line in their 62-56 win over Florida State.
The Bearcats five starters all average at least 9.3 points per game. Sean Kilpatrick leads the group at 14.2 points per game, but this is a very balanced offense that lacks any true superstar on the offensive end. Yancy Gates is a strong low post player who averages 12.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Cincinnati shoots just 42% from the floor as a team. Defensively, the Bearcats are very good. Opponents average just 61 points per game against this team.
Ohio State had a tough game with Gonzaga on Saturday afternoon, but the Buckeyes came through in the clutch and pulled out a nice victory. It was the terrific performance from point guard Aaron Craft that led the Buckeyes to the Sweet Sixteen. Craft is probably the nation’s best on-ball defender, but he was terrific on the offensive end against Gonzaga. The Buckeyes need Craft to keep being aggressive on the offensive end, because he definitely has the skills to put up 15 points per game. Jared Sullinger leads the team in scoring and rebounding. He averages 17.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. DeShaun Thomas is capable of going off, as he showed with his 31 points in their win over Loyola in the Round of 64.
William Buford is a senior with a sweet stroke for the Buckeyes, but he has been off his game for much of the year. Buford is shooting a career low 42.5% from the floor this year. Ohio State needs him to hit the long range jumper to help spread the floor for Sullinger in the low post. The Buckeyes were great from three-point range last year, but it is a weakness of this year’s team. Ohio State generally wins the battle on the boards, and they are great at getting second chance points. Defensively, the Buckeyes allow just 59.2 points per contest.
Both teams should be ready for this one. The Buckeyes are the more talented team, but if they go cold Cincinnati could hang around. I think the defenses will control this game. Look for Ohio State to move on thanks to another strong effort from Aaron Craft.
Free College Basketball Pick: Under 131
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