Sweet 16 Preview – West
Ohio State is the only top four seed to make it to the Sweet 16 in the West region. Number one seed Gonzaga was upset by number eight seed Wichita State. New Mexico, Kansas State, and Wisconsin all lost in the first round. La Salle was the only team to win three tournament games (Boise St., Kansas State, and Ole Miss) and advance to the next weekend. Arizona looked impressive in lopsided wins over Belmont and Harvard.
#6 Arizona vs. #2 Ohio State
Head coaches Sean Miller and Thad Matta are very familiar with each other, going back to their days on the Xavier staff. Aaron Craft willed the Buckeyes to victory over Iowa State in the third round with a game winning three and taking a critical charge late in the game. LaQuinton Ross provided a lift offensively, scoring 17 points off the bench including three three’s. The Wildcats took care of business in two blowout wins over Belmont and Harvard. Guard Mark Lyons matched a career high, scoring twenty seven points in the 74-51 win over Harvard. Deshaun Thomas matching up against Solomon Hill has the makings of a good battle. Hill has the intelligence and athleticism to guard Thomas, and is a threat offensively to keep Thomas honest defensively. Whoever gets the better of the match up could be the difference in the game. Craft draws the defensive assignment on Lyons, who is averaging 25 ppg in the tourney. Advantage Wildcats if the game is up tempo and reaches the seventies. Advantage Ohio State if the game is in the 50’s or low 60’s. Arizona advances to the Elite Eight.
#13 La Salle vs # 9 Wichita State
The Explorers are the surprise of the region knocking off Kansas State and Ole Miss. Ramon Galloway is averaging 22 ppg in the tourney and is playing at a high level. La Salle uses quickness and has three guards who can break defenses down off the dribble in Galloway, Tyrone Garland, and Tyreek Duren. Garland is ultra quick, and broke down the Rebels zone defense for the game winning lay-up. The trio of guards will need to play big in order for La Salle to win. Wichita State shocked Gonzaga in the third round by hitting five straight three pointers in the last six minutes. The Shockers are physical and have an advantage on the interior led by Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall. Wing Ron Baker is a zone buster going 4-of-6 from three against Gonzaga. PG Malcolm Armstead will need to control the pace for the Shockers and not allow the game to get too helter-skelter. Wichita State will advance to the Elite Eight.
#9 Wichita State vs #6 Arizona
In an unlikely Elite Eight matchup, I like the Wildcats advantage in the backcourt and on the wings. Arizona big men Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett match up well against Early and Hall. Arizona goes to their first Final Four under Sean Miller.
Ryan Klaas is a Scout and Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball.