The West Region is the cause for millions of brackets being busted. With No. 1 seed Gonzaga, No. 3 seed New Mexico and No. 4 Kansas State all eliminated, Ohio State is the only team that has held its seeding and reached the Sweet Sixteen. If the referees didn’t blow the block/charge call late against Iowa State, it is likely that Ohio State would be done for the season.
With play shifting to the Staples Center on Thursday, expect the upsets to continue and Arizona to knock off Ohio State on its way to the Final Four.
Here are five reasons why the Wildcats will win the West and reach Atlanta.
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1. THE BUCKEYE BRICKLAYER
He covered his ass with the game-winner, but Aaron Craft struggled mightily down the stretch against Iowa State as the Buckeyes blew a 13-point lead. Craft missed three free throws in the last five minutes of the game, including the front end of a pair of one-and-ones. With the hitch in his shot, it is no secret why Craft can’t shoot. His decision to take the last shot was also misguided. Craft lucked out that Iowa State’s Georges Niang gave him too much room when his only option was to shoot. Ohio State only has one standout scorer in Deshaun Thomas (19.7 a game) and Arizona will be able to focus its defense on stopping him. Although Craft is an excellent, maybe the best, on-ball defender in the country, his inability to score will ultimately come back to bite the Buckeyes in the you-know-where.
2. OTHER HALF OF THE REGION
Although Wichita State and La Salle are legitimate teams, they aren’t on par with the competition Arizona faced during the Pac-12 regular season. Neither team faced opponents with the kind of elite athleticism that Arizona has. Plain and simple, Arizona is much more talented than both of its potential Elite Eight foes. The law of averages says that both teams will come back to earth from their electric starts to the tournament, particularly Wichita State. The Shockers shot a lights out 14-for-28 from beyond the arc in their upset of Gonzaga, which they aren’t likely to repeat when the spotlight starts to shine brighter in Hollywood.
The Wildcats’ starting lineup follows the NBA trend of playing a small forward at power forward to exploit mismatches. At 6-7, senior Solomon Hill can hold his own defensively and use his versatility to give defenses nightmares. Against Harvard, Hill posted up against smaller defenders and flashed a fall-away baseline jump shot that is virtually unguardable. He isn’t just a bruiser, however, as he also shot 38.9 percent from three-point land during the season. Playing Hill alongside three guards in Mark Lyons, Nick Johnson and Kevin Parrom gives them some of the best floor spacing in the country. The trio of Lyons (15.4 points per game), Hill (13.3) and Johnson (11.6) gives Arizona a balanced offensive attack. The reason they can play such a small lineup is their big man Kaleb Tarczewski.