No. 2-seeded Arizona (32-3; 16-2) will take on No.10-seeded Ohio State (27-10; 11-7) in a third-round, West region matchup at Moda Center in Portland on Saturday. The two squads took vastly different paths to advance thus far.
Ohio State squeaked by VCU 75-72 in overtime, while Arizona easily beat Texas Southern 93-72. Saturday’s game projects to be an interesting one. It will feature two standout freshmen and likely lottery picks in the NBA draft. Freshman guard D’Angelo Russell is the key component of the Ohio State roster. He averages 19.6 points, five assists and 5.6 rebounds. Russell dropped 28 points against VCU to lead the Buckeyes to a win.
Stanley Johnson, Arizona’s star freshman forward, has averaged 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds throughout the year. He dropped 22 in the blowout over Texas Southern. It was an efficient game for Johnson as well. He went eight-for-11 and made four-of-five from behind the arc.
The two young stars might provide the fireworks for the third-round matchup. That should make for an interesting individual battle. But overall, the Wildcats probably have the deeper team. While Arizona is the clear favorite, it might be a close game.
“We're expecting a terrific game tomorrow,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said in a press conference. “Hopefully I think some of the things we went through yesterday in our second-round game that we'll learn from and be even better. I think we'll have to play better tomorrow to have a chance to beat Ohio State.”
Miller’s counterpart on the Ohio State bench, Thad Matta, is a familiar face. Matta and Miller were on the Xavier staff together early in both of their careers. Matta was a mentor to Miller and the two are still good friends. They also know each other’s coaching style. It could perhaps make the game tight, despite most pundits agreeing that Arizona is the better team.
The Wildcats have a stingy defense, led by sophomore forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. He averages 6.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, along with 11.5 points. He should be able to control the post on Saturday. Ohio State might struggle to find their groove against the 15th ranked defense in the NCAA (59 ppg allowed). The Buckeyes have the 25th best offense at 75.8 points per game, but might have to do more of their work on the perimeter and cutting to the basket. Arizona isn’t a slouch on offense as well, scoring an average 76.4 points per game.
Both teams have star players that can take a game over, but Arizona might just have the more complete roster.
Start Time: 5:15 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Live Stream: Watch online at March Madness Live
Odds: Arizona is a 9-1/2 point favorite, according to bovada.lv.
Prediction: Russell will have to try and take over the game—which he is certainly capable of doing. It should be a close game because the coaches are so familiar with one another. Arizona is simply too good defensively and will come away with the win.
Arizona over Ohio State, 67-63