With LaQuinton Ross' game-winning three-pointer over Arizona in the rear view mirror, Ohio State plays Wichita State for a chance to earn a Final Four berth. Wichita State is coming off a 72-58 dismantling of La Salle in a game that the Shockers outrebounded the Explorers 44-23. Ohio State will be better equipped than La Salle to deal with the inside presence of Wichita, but will need big games from Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft to burst the No. 9 seed's bubble.
After finishing second in the Big 10 with a 13-5 record, the Buckeyes entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed in the West region. Handling No. 15 seed Iona, Ohio State went on to play consecutive barn-burners against Iowa State and Arizona. Craft and Ross each hit game-winners to propel the Buckeyes to their second straight Elite Eight appearance.
Wichita State, of the Missouri Valley Conference, earned an at-large bid to the tournament and a No. 9 seed. They managed to survive the bubble and quickly proved that they belonged in the field, upsetting Pittsburgh and Gonzaga on their way to deflowering La Salle. The Shockers have reached the Elite Eight for the first time since 1981 and are looking for their first Final Four bid since 1965.
To advance to their second straight Final Four, Ohio State must control the painted area. The Shockers scored 40 points in the paint against La Salle, helped by the fact that they pulled 15 offensive rebounds. If Ohio State can't keep Wichita off the glass, look for Thad Motta to increase the minutes of Amir Williams, the 6'11 sophomore who averages over a block per game in limited minutes.
Wichita also has an advantage in bench scoring, with forward Cleanthony Early able to come in and put up points in a hurry. Though he started against La Salle, the junior put up 21 against Pittsburgh and 16 against Gonzaga in a combined 52 minutes of playing time off the bench. The Buckeyes scoring comes from Thomas, who averages just under 20 points and six rebounds. He and fellow junior Craft, 10.1 ppg, will look to make the Shockers play from behind and play Big 10 basketball the rest of the way.
The winner of this game will head to Atlanta to play in the Final Four next Saturday.
Game time, TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles