No. 2 Ohio State is on the verge of its second consecutive trip to the Final Four, but a tough No. 9 Wichita State team has no plans to let Thad Matta improve his résumé.
The Shockers had to knock off No. 1 Gonzaga and survive against upstart La Salle to reach this Elite Eight matchup.
While the Buckeyes’ wins in the last two rounds were expected, they did not come easily. A game-winning three-pointer was needed in both games to propel Ohio State to victory.
OSU will certainly be trying to limit the drama this time around. Here are the team’s keys to victory against Wichita State.
Go to Deshaun Thomas Early
Thomas has had double-digit scoring outputs in the first half of every game in the tournament thus far, and the Buckeyes’ offense revolves around him.
He is a dominant scorer in the post against smaller players, and he has the skill to step out onto the perimeter and hit jump shots against slower, bigger defenders.
Ohio State must find him early in this game and exploit the mismatches he creates. This will put Wichita State on its heels and open up space for the other Buckeyes players, who are far more inconsistent offensively than Thomas.
While the entire game does not rest on his shoulders, his performance in the first half will be vital to Ohio State’s success.
Control the Tempo
The Buckeyes are at their best in half-court sets on both ends of the floor.
When Ohio State has time to set itself defensively, there are few teams in the country who make it more more difficult to score. Thad Matta’s players are incredibly disciplined and do not give up easy baskets.
On offense, the Buckeyes have the ability to get out in transition with the ball in Aaron Craft’s hands, but the team does not want to get caught in an up-and-down game. Rushing possessions will lead to poor shots and chances for the Shockers on the fast break.
Ohio State must make Wichita State run their half-court offense to get points. If this happens, the Buckeyes will be heading to Atlanta.
Find a Second Scorer
Establishing Thomas on the offensive end of the floor will be key early in the game, but once that happens, someone else must step up.
In the round of 64, Sam Thompson answered the call, while Aaron Craft stepped up offensively in the round of 32. LaQuinton Ross delivered in a big way in the Sweet 16.
Ross has been productive off the bench in his past two games, and after his game-winning three-pointer against Arizona, he will have plenty of confidence in his scoring abilities.
He is the most likely candidate to play Robin to Thomas’ Batman, and he must step up offensively in the second half of this game.
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