(2) Ohio State vs. (6) Cincinnati: East Region
Ohio State 29-7, 13-5 Big Ten (Regular-season 3-way conference champions; At large)
Cincinnati 26-10, 12-6 Big East (At large)
Time: 9:45 p.m. Thursday
Location: TD Garden in Boston
Winner will face: (1) Syracuse or (4) Wisconsin, Sunday
Ohio State def. Loyola (Md.) 78-59; def. Gonzaga, 73-66
Cincinnati def. Texas, 65-59; def. Florida State, 62-56
Ohio State No. 7 AP; No. 7 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Cincinnati No. 27 AP; No. 29 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Ohio State 5
Line: Ohio State -7½ (O/U 130½)
Players to Watch
Ohio State: F Jared Sullinger, 6-9 So. (17.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 53% FG); F Deshaun Thomas, 6-7 So. (15.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 53.2% FG); G Aaron Craft, 6-2 So. (8.8 ppg, 4.7 apg, 2.4 spg). Craft is affective as a point guard even if he isn’t scoring. If he scores like he did in Saturday’s win – 7-of-9 field goals for 17 points – it makes the Buckeyes a true title contender.
Cincinnati: G Sean Kilpatrick, 6-4 So. (14.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.2 apg); F Yancy Gates, 6-9 Sr. (12.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 47.6% FG); G Jaquon Parker, 6-3 Jr. (9.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.1 apg). Despite making just two of his eight field goal attempts in Sunday’s win, Parker’s performance was key for the Bearcats. He had nine points, 11 rebounds and four assists in the victory.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Ohio State: The Buckeyes have an elite post scorer in Sullinger, an elite inside-out scorer in Thomas and a dangerous 3-point shooter in William Buford. No team in America can match those three offensive outputs. OSU averages 74.8 points per game and shoots 48.2 percent from the field, including 25-of-53 against a strong Gonzaga defense. The Buckeyes can rebound with anyone, out-boarding opponents by 7.6 per game, they have a plus-3 turnover margin and a 1.26-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Craft is a strong floor leader, a savvy passer and an elite perimeter defender.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats have played great defense all season but particularly of late. They have held 12 straight opponents under 50 percent shooting. Cincy’s perimeter defense is outstanding. Opponents shoot just 31.9 percent from behind the 3-point line against them and they force 14.1 points turnovers per game. Teams are shooting just 41 percent overall against the Bearcats, including a 19-for-50 performance from Florida State on Sunday. Cincinnati forced 17 Seminole turnovers and blocked five shots. Cincinnati can put up points, too. The Cats play a fast pace and sometimes play it to perfection. Offensive balance – with all five starters averaging at least 9.3 points – is their key to success.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Ohio State: The Buckeyes have almost no depth, so foul trouble against a rugged Cincinnati team could definitely be a concern. Although they are a very good rebounding team, the Bulldogs out-rebounded them 31-26 and OSU allowed them 11 offensive boards. OSU made 9-of-24 from behind the arc against Gonzaga, but for the season, it shoots just 32.9 percent from the field.
Cincinnati: Although they have had some offensive explosions, the Bearcats are limited offensively. They shoot just 42 percent from the field, 33.9 from behind the 3-point arc and 64.4 from the foul line. Cincinnati is thin on the frontline and out-rebounds opponents by just 0.4 boards per game. The Cats allow offensive rebounds 34.4 percent of the time.
The Bottom Line: Eight points is way too many for a defense playing as well as Cincinnati. Ohio State has some advantages, but the Bearcats should keep it fairly close.
The Pick: Ohio State 68, Cincinnati 63
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 214-164-6
NCAA Tournament (through first two rounds): 27-21-1