(2) Ohio State vs. (7) Gonzaga: East Region
Ohio State 28-7, 13-5 Big Ten (Regular-season 3-way conference champions; At large)
Gonzaga 26-6, 13-3 WCC (At large)
Time: 2:45 p.m. Saturday
Location: Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh
First round results
Ohio State def. Loyola (Md.) 78-59
Gonzaga def. West Virginia 77-54
Winner will face: (3) Florida State, (6) Cincinnati, (11) Texas or (14) St. Bonaventure, Thursday in Boston
Ohio State No. 7 AP; No. 7 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Gonzaga No. 30 AP; No. 30 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Ohio State 7
Line: Ohio State -8 (O/U 136½)
Players to Watch
Ohio State: F Jared Sullinger, 6-9 So. (17.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 53.9% FG); F Deshaun Thomas, 6-7 So. (15.4 ppg, 5 rpg, 53.1% FG); G William Buford, 6-6 Sr. (14.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.9 apg). Thomas’s offensive game has continued to improve and has become more consistent. On Thursday, the sophomore had career-highs of 31 points and 12 rebounds in the Buckeyes’ win over Loyola. He made 13 of 22 shots during the performance.
Gonzaga: F Elias Harris, 6-7 Jr. (13.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 50.5% FG); C Robert Sacre, 7-0 Sr. (11.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.5 bpg); G Kevin Pangos, 6-1 Fr. (13.8 ppg, 3.4 apg, 40.5% 3s). After struggling down the stretch, Sacre has played well in Gonzaga’s last two games. On Thursday, he was 6-for-9 from the field for 14 points. He also had six boards, an assist and a block in the triumph.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Ohio State: With Thomas scoring the way he is, OSU has three really good scoring options in three very distinct ways. The Buckeye defense held Loyola to 19-of-54 shooting and 4-of-14 from the 3-point line. PG Aaron Craft is among the best perimeter defenders in the country. For the season, Ohio State is shooting 48.2 percent from the floor (16th-best in the country), while holding opponents to 40.5 percent. The Buckeyes out-rebound opponents by eight per game and have a plus-3.2 turnover margin.
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs are shooting 47.6 percent from the floor, 38.1 from the 3-point line (31st-best in the country) and 71.6 at the foul line, where they score 23.7 percent of their points. They have one of the most efficient offenses in the country, scoring 1.11 points per possession and 74.1 points per game. In Thursday’s 23-point win, they shot 56 percent overall and 53 from deep. They had 15 assists on 28 field goals and they got nine steals. Opponents are shooting just 41.1 percent overall and 30.8 from deep. Gonzaga made more free throws this season than its opponents have shot.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Ohio State: Thomas isn’t a great defender and Craft and Lenzelle Smith don’t provide the Buckeye offense much punch. There is little quality depth off of the OSU bench. If any of the Buckeye stars – Thomas, Sullinger, Craft or Buford – get into foul trouble, it could put OSU in a tough situation. They don’t have much of a defensive presence in the paint and that’s something Gonzaga could take advantage of.
Gonzaga: Sacre’s inconsistency is baffling. Will he rise to the occasion of facing Sullinger or will he shrink? Against Michigan State – a team similar to the Buckeyes – the Bulldogs allowed MSU to shoot 54 percent from the field in a 9-point loss. The Bulldogs turn the ball over 13.3 times per game and force just 13 with a poor 1.04-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Despite their size, the Zags block just 3.2 shots per game. Sullinger could have a big day inside.
The Bottom Line: Ohio State’s inside toughness will likely win out in the end. But 8 points? Really?
The Pick: Ohio State 70, Gonzaga 66
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 206-158-6 (Through Thursday, March 16)