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Previewing the Elite 8: East Region

by Photo of Geoff Hutchinson

The two best teams in the East Region will face off for the right to play in the Final Four next weekend.

Previewing the Elite 8: East Region

It's down to Syracuse and Ohio State. Who will take represent the East Region in Atlanta?

How They Got There:

Syracuse:

The #1-seeded Orange survived against the #4-seeded Wisconsin Badgers on Thursday night 64-63 to advance to the Elite 8. It's not often that a team gives up 14 three pointers and manage to find a way to win, but that's what happened with Syracuse. The Badgers went 14-27 from behind the arc, but were unable to hit them late to overcome the barrage from the Orange. Syracuse was able to score at will against the Badgers, shooting 55% from the field, including 5-9 from 3 point range. It was a balanced scoring effort for Syracuse with 4 players scoring in double figures, led by forward C.J. Fair's 15 points.

Ohio State:

The #2-seeded Buckeyes defeated their in-state foe, the #6-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats 81-66 on the Eastern Regional Semifinals. The Buckeyes were led by star big man Jared Sullinger, who scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the victory. The Buckeyes forced the Bearcats to stray from their game and forced 18 Cincinnati turnovers off of 13 steals. The major cause for the turnovers was Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft, who had 6 steals in addition to his 11 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists. Forward Deshaun Thomas led the Buckeyes in scoring with 26 points on 10-17 shooting, including 3-5 from 3 point range.

Key Matchup: Syracuse's bigs vs. Ohio State's Jared Sullinger

This seems to be a recurring theme. How can other teams contain Jared Sullinger? It really isn't as easy as it seems. Sullinger is probably the best offensive big man in the nation, with his ability to outmuscle defenders to create space for himself on the low block and his ability to face up, step back and hit outside shots. Sullinger is one of the best rebounders in the nation, which is important against Syracuse's 2-3 zone. 

The weakness of Syracuse is its inability to rebound out of their zone. Teams feast against Syracuse on the boards, as Syracuse is in the bottom 5th of the nation in regards to rebounding teams' misses. This was before Syracuse lost the anchor in the middle of their 2-3 zone, Fab Melo, who was ruled academically ineligible for the tournament. Talented, but young and unproven big men Baye Keita & Rakeem Christmas will be charged with the task of stopping Sullinger from dominating in the paint against Syracuse's defense. If Syracuse can limit the amount of second-chance points Ohio State gets, they should be in great position to win the game.

Winner: Syracuse

Both teams have had amazing seasons thus far. Syracuse has been a dominant force all throughout the season, while Ohio State has shown from time to time the potential that experts predicted from them at the start of the season. In the end, I think Syracuse's ability to rely on a myriad of scorers will allow for them to advance past the Buckeyes. Guard William Buford, who I penned as a X-Factor at the start of the tournament, has not shown up thus far for Ohio State. I don't expect for him to show up against Syracuse either, which will be an issue for the Buckeyes. Syracuse's zone tends to suffocate teams that can not adequately shoot from the perimeter, which is a primary skill of Buford's.

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