2012 NCAA Tournament
Elite Eight – East Region
Saturday, 3/24/12, 7:05 p.m. Eastern, TV: CBS
#1 Syracuse Orange (34-2) vs. #2 Ohio State Buckeyes (30-7)
TD Garden – Boston, MA
Opening Line: Ohio State -2.5
Current Line: Ohio State -3
Opening Total: 136
Current Total: 136
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker
The top-seeded Syracuse Orange have overcome just about every obstacle that has stood in their way this season on their way to breaking a record for most wins in school history and pulling within one victory of making it to the Final Four from the East Region. But the Orange (34-2) will face their biggest challenge yet on Saturday at Boston’s TD Garden when they meet the second-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes (30-7) as underdogs for the first time in 37 games.
The Buckeyes (-3, O/U 136) figure to test Syracuse more than any other team so far with a legitimate big man in the middle in sophomore Jared Sullinger, who could finally be the one to take advantage of Fab Melo’s absence for the Orange. The 7-foot sophomore center who was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year has not been missed much in their first three games of the NCAA tournament, but his ineligibility might prove to be costly here against Ohio State, especially in a half-court game where Sullinger could dominate.
The key for Syracuse is to try to get out and run like the team did in spurts during a 64-63 win over No. 4 Wisconsin on Thursday in the Sweet 16 and in a 75-59 victory against Kansas State in the third round. The Badgers were able to sink 14 of 27 3-point attempts against the Orange’s 2-3 zone defense in the most recent game, but they were also outscored 30-10 in the paint. Wisconsin lived and ultimately died by the 3-pointer, something the Buckeyes would be smart to learn from heading in this Elite Eight matchup.
Ohio State just knocked out the team that handed Syracuse its last loss in No. 6 Cincinnati 81-66 behind a game-high 26 points from sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas. Sullinger also added 23 points and a game-high 11 rebounds to help overcome a poor shooting performance from William Buford, who made 1 of 8 shots and finished with four points. Four Buckeyes played 35 minutes or more against the Bearcats, so depth could be a problem against arguably the deepest team in the country.
Both teams are very sound defensively, with each posting virtually identical statistics in their past five games. Led by point guard Aaron Craft, Ohio State is holding opponents to an average of 62.8 points on 40 percent shooting from the field while the Orange are slightly better at 62.6 and 39. Craft’s play against Syracuse guards Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters and Brandon Triche could be one of the deciding factors in the game.
However, the Orange have seen the UNDER cash in four of its last six games compared to the OVER going 9-1 in the previous 10 for the Buckeyes. Ohio State averages 75 points per game and has been even better in the Big Dance while Syracuse’s offensive production has dropped a bit with the team going 2-8 against the spread in its past 10.