4:47 p.m. PST / 7:47 p.m. ET
The feature show
Aaron Craft and Mark Lyons -- While Lyons has scored an average 25 points in his last two games, there's a difference in his opponent comparing the likes of Belmont and Harvard to a big-name program. As Pac-12 play showed, Lyons struggles when he isn't the outright dominant player physically, and there's no doubt Craft will make him work for his buckets. Adding to this is the fact that Lyons was pouring in the points by getting by his defender and then having no height to shoot over at the rim. Simply put, the Wildcats will need to find their scoring elsewhere in this one.
Craft held former Arizona point guard Momo Jones to 3-of-14 shooting for nine points, zero assists and four turnovers when the Buckeyes opened their tournament run against the Iona Gaels. That's quite the Lyons-esque stat line for a guy in the nation's top-five in scoring.
The underlying matchup
We can talk about the role players quite a bit. Arizona's big men and Ohio State's perimeter scorers will be the X-factors, respectively, for each team. But more interesting perhaps than even the Lyons-Craft matchup is the play of Deshaun Thomas and Solomon Hill.
Hill cannot afford getting into foul trouble as he did earlier in the tournament. He should be capable of running Thomas off the three-point line as an undersized 4-man, and how this battle goes could sway the game as well. Both Hill and Thomas are crucial to their team's success, and how -- or if -- Hill can be successful in attacking Thomas on the other end could put the OSU power forward on his heels a bit. That's important if the Buckeyes aren't getting much from their role players.
Ohio State wins if ...
The Buckeyes win if they prove, as did some of the better Pac-12 teams, that nobody else on UA is willing to step up in the absence of a high-scoring game from Lyons. It's quite possible Arizona will be in fine shape without Lyons' scoring if they don't turn the ball over and allow OSU to get into transition. But there's a good chance his scoring woes will coincide with mistakes forced by Craft and fellow guard Shannon Scott.
Ohio State is perhaps the best defensive team the Wildcats have faced this year. Like Arizona is itself when everyone is locked in, the Buckeyes likely won't be out of this game until the final buzzer goes off. And if the win against a very good Iowa State team is any indication, the Buckeyes can close games with the best of them.
Arizona wins if ...
OSU has apparently had trouble scoring in the halfcourt this season. Oddly enough, the Wildcats have seemingly grown into a team quite happy to run their halfcourt motion offense. Sure, that has to be clicking against the Buckeyes' great defense, but Arizona -- as it did in the Florida game -- can stay with any team in the nation if it controls the pace.
That will allow the defense to set up with its great interior length. It's expected Ohio State will be at least used to such length -- Belmont and Harvard were clearly rattled when they bigs or perimeter players got to the cup -- but if they can convert is another story.
And on offense, if the Wildcats continue to play inside-out and the freshmen big men stay on their current path, then Arizona will be in good shape.
Coming out party
Arizona's big men could very well prove to be the difference here. But it's Nick Johnson who has his shot to set himself up for an All-American junior campaign. Because Craft will be busy hounding Lyons, it could be up to Johnson to set the Wildcats apart. He has the talent, but whether he's ready to step up on the grandest stage remains to be seen.
The final word
In the end, this game is set up to be one of the best in the tournament. The styles between the Bucks and Wildcats are similar, their coaches are from the same pedigree and there's a good chance this one goes down to the wire. So that means the team that makes the most plays as the defenses tighten late in the game will win it. Arizona showed early in the year that it's plenty capable to do so, while Ohio State proved just this past weekend that it has the players with the skin tough enough to survive in March.
- Ari Wasserman of Buckeye Sports Bulletin on the relationship with Thad Matta and Sean Miller.
- ESPN's Myron Medcalf on if the Buckeyes are a two-trick pony with Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas. The answer is 'no,' by the way. Mark Lyons believes LaQuinton Ross is a guy to watch.
- CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello picks Ohio State over Arizona. After all, the Buckeyes have hardly lost in the last few months.
- ESPN's LaPhonso Ellis picks the Wildcats to pull off the 2-6 seed upset.