Saturday March 24 7:05 p.m. EST on CBS
NCAA Basketball Spread: Ohio State -3
The Ohio State Buckeyes won the battle of Ohio Thursday night over Cincinnati. Syracuse outlasted a tough Wisconsin team in one of the best games of the tournament thus far. Ohio State is the second seed in the East Region, but they come into this one as the small favorite. Let’s take a closer look at this matchup to determine who will go to the Final Four.
Ohio State dominated the first half Thursday night against Cincinnati. The Bearcats made a huge run to take a 52-48 lead with about 10 minutes left in the game, but the Buckeyes finished the game on a 33-14 run. DeShaun Thomas led the way with 26 points, while Jared Sullinger had 23 points and 11 rebounds. Aaron Craft was a defensive force as he normally is, and he racked up six steals and forced the Bearcats out of their offense. Ohio State outrebounded the Bearcats and won the turnover battle as well.
The Buckeyes are a well-rounded team that can score from the inside or the outside. One major problem of late though has been the slump of William Buford. Buford is a senior leader on the team, but he has been ice cold during the tournament. He has to knock down shots from the outside against this Syracuse zone or the Buckeyes will be in trouble. Lenzelle Smith Jr. is an unsung hero who put in 15 points on 6 for 7 shooting Thursday night. Ohio State must find a way to get in the paint against Syracuse. If they simply pass it around the perimeter against this zone they can’t win. Defensively, Ohio State allows just 59.4 points per game.
Syracuse was able to win Thursday night despite Wisconsin burying 14 three-point shots. The Orange outscored the Badgers 30 to 10 inside the paint, and it was the terrific defense over the last five minutes of the game that sealed the deal for Syracuse. The loss of Fab Melo certainly hurts this team, but Syracuse still has a lot of length and athleticism in their zone. Opponents shoot just 38.5% from the floor overall, and only 31.5% from three-point range against the Orange.
Dion Waiters has really stepped up his game this year for Syracuse. Waiters averages 12.7 points per game, and he has scored in double figures in seven straight games for this team. When the team needed a big bucket against Wisconsin, it seemed like Waiters was the one doing it for the team every time. Kris Joseph is a versatile 6’7 forward who leads the team in scoring at 13.5 points per game. Brandon Triche has a tremendous midrange game, and he’ll need to be big in this game. Syracuse struggles on the defensive glass, and that is an area that could be a problem against this terrific Ohio State frontcourt.
I expect this game to be a hard fought battle all the way. Both teams play terrific defense, and I think easy baskets will be hard to come by in this game. Expect a game that goes down to the final possession.
Free College Basketball Pick: Under 136.5
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