Ohio State, the No. 2 seed in the NCAA West Region, will play for a return trip to the Final Four as it takes on ninth-seeded Wichita State in a regional championship game Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles (7:05 p.m. Eastern, CBS).
The Buckeyes have not reached back-to-back Final Fours since going to three straight in 1960-62.
OSU is 11-3 all-time in games to reach the NCAA Final Four, including wins over Memphis in 2007 and Syracuse last year under Thad Matta.
The winner between Ohio State (29-7) and Wichita State (29-7) will advance to the Final Four and play the Midwest Region champion in a national semifinal April 6 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Below, we have our preview and a prediction for Saturday’s OSU-Wichita State game.
Here is our What To Watch feature for Saturday’s game against Wichita State:
Opponent: Wichita State
* What: NCAA West Region championship game
* Where: Staples Center (capacity, 18,118), Los Angeles
* Date, Time: Saturday, 7:05 p.m. Eastern (4:05 p.m. Pacific)
* TV: TBS (Announcers: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Len Elmore and Lewis Johnson)
* 2012-13 Records: Ohio State, 29-7 overall, 13-5 Big Ten (tied for second); Wichita State, 29-8 overall, 12-6 Missouri Valley (second).
* NCAA Tournament Records: Ohio State, 29th appearance, 54-27 all-time, 11 Final Fours (most recent 2012), one national title (1960); Wichita State, 10th appearance, 10-10 all-time, one Final Four (1965).
* NCAA Results This Tournament: Ohio State, defeated 15 seed Iona 95-70, defeated 10 seed Iowa State 78-75, defeated 6 seed Arizona 73-70; Wichita State, defeated 8 seed Pittsburgh 73-55, defeated 1 seed Gonzaga 76-70, defeated 13 seed La Salle 72-58.
* Poll Rankings: Ohio State, seventh in the AP poll and sixth in the USA Today coaches poll; Wichita State, unranked.
* RPI Rankings: Ohio State, 10th; Wichita State, 37th. (Ohio State was 8-7 against RPI top 50 teams during the regular season, while Wichita State was 3-2.)
* Sagarin Rankings: Ohio State, fifth; Wichita State, 42nd.
* Key Players (2012-13 Stats): Ohio State – F Deshaun Thomas, 6-7, jr., 19.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg; G Aaron Craft, 6-2, jr., 10.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.7 apg, 2.1 spg; G Lenzelle Smith Jr., 6-4, jr., 9.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.5 apg; F LaQuinton Ross, 6-8, so., 8.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg; C Amir Williams, 6-11, so., 3.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.3 bpg; F-C Evan Ravenel, 6-8, sr., 5.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg; F Sam Thompson, 6-7, so., 7.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg; G Shannon Scott, 6-2, so., 4.9 ppg, 3.9 apg, 1.8 spg. Wichita State – F Cleanthony Early, 6-8, jr., 13.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg; F Carl Hall, 6-8, sr., 12.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg; G Malcolm Armstead, 6-0, jr., 10.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.9 apg; G Ron Baker, 6-3, fr., 8.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg; G Demetric Williams, 6-2, sr., 7.7 ppg; G Tekele Cotton, 6-2, so., 6.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg; G Nick Wiggins, 6-6, jr., 5.0 ppg.
* Quality Of Opponent: Very good. Wichita State has won 10 of its last 13 games with two of those losses to MVC champion Creighton (91-79 at Creighton and 68-65 in the MVC tournament championship game). The Shockers lived up to their nickname with a 76-70 upset of No. 1-ranked Gonzaga in an NCAA third-round game in Salt Lake City.
In that win over Gonzaga, Early and Baker each had 16 points and the red hot Shockers hit five straight three-pointers late to stun the Bulldogs. On Thursday, Wichita State smothered La Salle 72-58 in their regional semifinal game. The Shockers held the Explorers to 35.7 percent shooting, while Armstead had 18 points and six rebounds and Hall had 16 points and eight boards.
You can call Wichita State a mid-major all you want but coach Gregg Marshall’s team is really good. Their best win during the regular season was probably at VCU (53-51) on Nov. 13. They played three games against teams from BCS conferences during the regular season, beating Iowa (75-63) and DePaul (75-62) on neutral floors and losing at Tennessee (69-60). They also beat Pittsburgh in their tournament opener.
* OSU-Wichita State Series: Ohio State is 3-1 all-time against Wichita State. The teams met in 1960-63 in a pair of home-and-home series. OSU won in Wichita in 1960 (93-82), won at home in Columbus in 1961 (85-62), lost at Wichita in 1962 (71-54) and won at home in 1963 (78-60).
* Fun Facts: OSU’s 29 wins this season are tied for the fourth-most in a single season in school history. The record is 35 in 2006-07, followed by 34 in 2010-11, 31 in 2011-12 and 29 in 2009-10. OSU has hit the 20-win plateau in each of Thad Matta’s nine seasons … The Buckeyes have won 11 straight games dating to a Feb. 17 loss at Wisconsin … Ohio State has won its last two games with three-pointers in the final seconds. Craft did the honors against Iowa State and Ross was the hero against Arizona … This is OSU’s seventh NCAA trip in nine seasons under Thad Matta. Under Matta, OSU is 17-6 in NCAA Tournament games. Matta’s overall record as a college coach in the NCAA is 23-10. Including conference tournaments, the NCAA and the NIT, Matta’s teams are 56-16 all-time in postseason play as a college coach and 41-11 in the postseason at OSU … Matta’s teams are now 75-17 all-time in the month of March. That includes a 53-12 mark in nine years at OSU … Thomas is 11th on OSU’s career scoring list with 1,607 points. Next up are Perry Carter (1,613) and Dave Sorensen (1,622) … In seven NCAA games in two years, Thomas has averaged 20.3 points and 6.6 rebounds and also hit 43.2 percent of his three-point tries (16 of 37) … During OSU’s six-game postseason run, Ross is averaging 11.3 points (up from 7.3 in the regular season) and hitting 60 percent of his three-point shots … OSU is unbeaten this year (23-0) in games against unranked teams. Wichita appeared in the top 25 several times during the season, topping out at No. 15 when the Shockers were 19-2 on Jan. 28. But Wichita was not ranked in the final AP poll. Against unranked opponents, Matta owns a 204-22 record as Ohio State head coach … This is Wichita State’s fourth appearance in a regional final. The Shockers also made it this far in 1964, 1965 and 1981. No Missouri Valley team has reached the Final Four since Larry Bird’s Indiana State team went to the title game against Michigan State in 1979.
* Match-Ups To Watch: A couple of them come to mind. Craft will probably be locked in against Armstead, who has led Wichita in scoring during the tournament. Obviously, Scott and Smith could rotate on him as well.
Also, the versatile Hall was like a one-man wrecking crew against La Salle. The Explorers could not handle his strength on the block and he muscled them for layups. Thomas seems like the logical match-up there and he struggled somewhat with Arizona’s Solomon Hill on Thursday. So keep an eye on that one.
* What’s At Stake: Real simple – a spot in the Final Four. A win in Saturday’s regional championship game would put Ohio State in the Final Four for the 12th time and second year in a row. OSU has been to consecutive Final Fours twice before with three straight trips between 1944-46 and 1960-62. Other Final Four berths were won in 1939, 1968, 1999 and 2007.
* Next On The Docket: The winner advances to the Final Four to play the Midwest Region champion April 6 in Atlanta.
* NCAA Tournament Schedule – Here is the schedule for this weekend’s NCAA games:
West Region (at Los Angeles) – Saturday: Regional championship, Ohio State (2 seed) vs. Wichita State (9 seed), 7:05. (CBS).
East Region (at Washington, D.C.) – Saturday: Regional championship, Syracuse (4 seed) vs. Marquette (3 seed), 4:30 p.m. (CBS).
Midwest Region (at Indianapolis) – Friday: Louisville (1) vs. Oregon (12), 7:15 p.m. (CBS); Duke (2) vs. Michigan State (3), 9:45 p.m. (CBS). Sunday: Regional championship, 2:10 or 4:55 p.m. (CBS).
South Region (at Arlington, Texas) – Friday: Kansas (1) vs. Michigan (4), 7:37 p.m. (TBS); Florida (3) vs. Florida Gulf Coast (15), 9:57 p.m. (TBS). Sunday: Regional championship, 2:10 or 4:55 p.m. (CBS).
Final Four (at Atlanta) – April 6: Semifinals; April 8: National championship game.
* How We See It: Ohio State has not lost to an unranked team all year. The Buckeyes also don’t want to be the team that loses and puts a Missouri Valley team in the Final Four for the first time since 1979.
Mid-majors have had some breakthroughs in recent years, though. George Mason, an 11 seed, beat top-seeded Connecticut in a regional final in 2006. Butler, a five seed, downed second-seeded Kansas State in a 2010 regional final. Butler was back at the Final Four in 2011 as the eighth-seeded Bulldogs downed second-seeded Florida. And, also in 2011, VCU – an 11 seed and play-in game winner – shocked top-seeded Kansas to reach the Final Four.
You wonder if Ohio State may have some pressure to uphold the Big Ten mantle as well. OSU hasn’t been to back-to-back Final Fours in 51 years. It would be huge to make a breakthrough like that with a win over Wichita.
The Buckeyes did not play well in the first half against Arizona. Luckily, Thomas kept them in it until they were able to stabilize things in the second half. And, of course, Ross made the huge three at the end to win it.
OSU has to come out on point defensively and put some doubt in the minds of the Wichita players whether they belong from the jump. Wichita has only played two games against ranked opponents all season, although the Shockers are 2-0 in those wins over Creighton (at home) and Gonzaga in the tournament. Ohio State is battle-tested with 13 games against ranked foes this year.
The Buckeyes must contain Wichita’s transition game and also hold their ground in the paint. Wichita State scored 40 points in the paint against La Salle.
This OSU team seems to be coming together at the right time. Thompson and Ross, in particular, have stepped up their games and should be ready to provide some extra scoring punch. I think OSU’s three-point shooting and length will haunt Wichita here.
I think the Buckeyes get it done in workmanlike fashion and advance on to their 12th Final Four.
I will call it: Ohio State 73, Wichita State 65
Press Conference Transcripts
Here are transcripts of some of today’s press events here in Los Angeles:
COACH MATTA: Well, we're, as Wichita State, we're operating on a quick turnaround. I think, obviously, it's a privilege. It's an honor to be playing tomorrow. This is what college basketball is all about. I think these guys have done a tremendous job thus far. We're not done yet in our preparation work, but we know we've got a heck of a battle tomorrow and look very forward to it.
Q. Deshaun, you have an elite scoring ability. Was there some point in your career where you just realized you had sort of the special ability to get to the basket and get buckets?
DESHAUN THOMAS: It was always natural growing up. Me in third grade, playing the Y‑ball, always scoring, playing against people, older, my size, scoring against them. Always had a knack for the ball. Got in high school, had the green light, played every position, took every shot, took every bad shot. So I had a knack of scoring the ball all my life.
Q. How much have you had to balance that with deferring to your teammates and allowing this to become more of a balanced attack?
DESHAUN THOMAS: I had to balance it starting last year, playing with Jared and Will and playing under them, I had to take great shots, and just trying to take them within a great movement within the offense, and that's what I did.
Coach Matta always preaches, Deshaun, take good shots. We need good ones. And I learned, and I'm doing pretty good at it.
Q. I just want to ask, this is for Amir and Lenzelle. I know, Lenzelle, who is the biggest jokester on the team?
AMIR WILLIAMS: I'll go with Lenzelle just because he stole my phone this week. I'll go Lenzelle.
LENZELLE SMITH: I'd probably go with either Shannon or Trey. They somehow find a way to make a joke out of everything. They're probably plotting on us right now. When we get back into the locker room, we're going to be missing something. I guarantee that.
Q. Deshaun, you kind of had a breakout year last year. You continued to improve. What motivated you this year to continue to work on your game, and what areas specifically do you think you improved on the most?
DESHAUN THOMAS: Just me being ready. Just working on my craft. I'm a competitive person. I love the hoop and just my craft. It's what I love to do. I work hard on creating off the dribble, trying to make easier shots for me and my teammates. Also, I worked really hard on the defensive end trying to get extra effort plays for my teammates. Just the little things to try to help us win.
Q. Aaron, how much has Deshaun changed in terms of being that guy with the green light who loves to score, to the player we've seen especially the last couple of weeks who has been more willing to defer to you all and to other people on the team?
AARON CRAFT: He's grown a lot. We've been around each other ever since we came in, roomed next to each other, lived together, and roomed together on the roads and things like that. So it's just great to see him grow as a player. I think the thing that I get the most excited about is when he gets pumped up about getting a charge or being in the right position on defense or making the extra pass, stuff that he really wasn't doing when he first got here. It really shows his hard work. He's listening. He wants to learn. He's not doing it perfect, but he's trying his best, and that's all we can ask?
Q. For anyone other than Deshaun, Coach Marshall, as a compliment, said that Deshaun is difficult to defend because he's a bad shot taker, but he makes those shots. How do you guys see it with someone's shot selection?
AARON CRAFT: I would love to start with that one. Yeah, Deshaun has probably taken more of those shots that you're really hoping he doesn't take. But he has a knack of putting the ball in the bucket. Even if he misses those shots, he usually finds the way to get the ball again on an offensive rebound.
So it's tough to get angry at him. There are times when you get him to relax and understand situations and things like that, but he's going to do what he does. He does a phenomenal job of taking the ones that we need him to take and he puts the ball in the bucket. So you can't complain too much.
Q. Deshaun, after the first half you had last night, you got three shots in the second half. At some time that would have bothered you more than it appeared to last night. How did you deal with that? Q was really on fire.
DESHAUN THOMAS: Yeah, I handled it pretty well. Probably freshman year even last year if I didn't touch the ball, I probably would have flipped. But it's me growing up as a person and knowing that we've got other guys who can at least put the ball in the hole.
Q came in, knocked down big shots. I was just patiently waiting until my name was called, and Craft and Lenzelle and Sam are doing their thing. So they were knocking down shots, so that was good. It takes a lot of pressure off.
Q. Amir, obviously, you're a big time recruit in high school, and you had a lot of options. What did you like about Ohio State when you first saw the campus and just the facilities and resources they invest in basketball?
AMIR WILLIAMS: It's just a winning atmosphere. It's a pleasure to come here and get better. Coach does a great job developing his athletes and trying to turn them into future pros whether they play professionally here or go overseas or something like that.
Like I said, it was just something that I fell in love with. Coach was honest with me up front, telling me what to expect from him, how they play, and how they outfit their system and stuff like that.
Q. Aaron and Lenzelle, you guys had a lot of point blank misses last night. Was it there late? It seemed kind of atypical.
AARON CRAFT: I'll take responsibility for that. We were able to get to the rim quite a bit last night, and the ball just wasn't falling. That's on us. Whether it's more focused, getting your eyes on the backboard, whatever it may be. Hopefully, if we're able to get to the rim tomorrow, we can put the ball in the bucket. Those are going to be big possessions for us.
LENZELLE SMITH: I missed one. I'm not perfect. Definitely driving the lane you've got big guys in the paint. It's a challenge trying to get the right angle of getting it over the defender and into the basket at the same time, so I've got to work on that a little bit more.
Q. What is your take on Wichita State? What have you learned about them? Are they deserving? Can a 9 seed beat a 2 seed?
DESHAUN THOMAS: They're a good team. They're physical. They play hard. They're scrappy. We can't overlook these guys. They're going to give their all out there, and we need to come out and match their intensity. They've got nothing to lose. So they're going to come out there and try to get every loose ball, every rebound, so we're going to have to match that.
SAM THOMPSON: To answer your question, they're absolutely supposed to be here. They're a great team. They have a lot of talent. They play hard. They play scrappy just like Deshaun said. And they're a team that's on a roll right now. They're playing their best basketball of the season just like we're playing our best basketball of the season.
So we really have to take it upon ourselves to come out and play hard and execute on both sides of the ball for 40 minutes. If we do that, we feel like we can win the game.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Thad Matta.
Q. Coach, you have access to a number of resources that have allowed you to build this program. How much of a competitive advantage do you think that gives you over a team like Wichita State?
COACH MATTA: It's not going to score us a point or get us a rebound tomorrow. I think every program has certain things. They've got pluses; they've got minuses. I've said this, and I say it all the time recruiting, Ohio State is not for everybody, just in terms of the way that we do things. The way that we operate.
I think from the standpoint of we're in a great league, being in the Big Ten, you look across the board at what schools in our league have, and it's pretty status quo amongst all of us.
I've been in this game before in Atlanta and started two freshmen that were not top 250 players coming out of high school. So I think that the parity, you have to look at what Wichita State has in terms of seniors, fifth‑year, that sort of thing.
We have one senior on our team again this year. The facilities don't give you experience, and I think that's something that in terms of‑‑ and I know what you're asking in recruiting and that sort of thing.
But I will say this: I don't want to get a kid because we have a nice practice facility. I want to get a kid because he wants to be at Ohio State for the right reasons in terms of earning a degree and an appreciation for the University.
Does it help? Maybe it does. But I'm not much of a glitz‑and‑glamour type of guy. So I don't see that type of stuff quite like maybe some do.
Q. It seemed like early in the season there was a question about this team. Where would the scoring come outside of Deshaun? How important has it been to develop scoring balance?
COACH MATTA: Well, I think that's something that we knew going into the season was going to be a process. As a coach, you're walking off the floor at the Superdome last year, in your mind saying what do we have to do to get ready for next year? Recruiting and you're driving and you're thinking, okay, boy, if I could get 14 from this guy and 12 from this guy, but it's a lot simpler said than done.
The thing that I've always felt comfortable about this basketball team is guys have had good stretches, taking the consistency along throughout the season. All of these guys have worked extremely hard.
Like I said three days ago, March 26, we had one of the best practices of the year, and usually that doesn't happen just in terms of your six months into the season. But I think it's a credit to those guys in terms that they've continued to work on their game.
You go back and put film in from November, and guys are doing a lot more than they could do then, which is a tribute to the assistant coaches and the job they've done with them.
Q. Thad, can you describe what is a bad shot for Deshaun and what is a good shot? I mean, he takes some of the bad shots and he does make those. That's why I'm wondering, when you talk to him specifically about, don't take, this don't take that?
COACH MATTA: Well, a lot of it, I'm like all of you. If it goes in, it's a great shot. If it doesn't, it's a bad shot. I think a lot of it is just have we put pressure on the defense in terms of moving the defense.
You always have to give credit where credit is due. We're playing against some great defensive teams. It's amazing. For the last probably three months now, some of the defenses we've gone, and they don't give you anything easy.
He has a way to find angles. It's more‑‑ we went through that stretch in the Big Ten tournament where he was taking some bad ones. You look at his shooting percentage then to his shooting percentage now in the NCAA Tournament, and it's incredible. I think that's a tribute to him recognizing that I don't have to get it off and try to shoot myself out of it. Just let it flow and good things will happen.
But we want him to shoot. But the better shot, the better he is.
Q. Sometimes he takes quick threes. Are they worse shots than some of those shots in the paint that he looks like he couldn't possibly make them and he makes them?
COACH MATTA: It depends. I go to the Iowa State game, and he pulled a three when he had a clear lane to the basket, and Monday night we took a look at it, or Sunday, whenever it was, and said, this is definitely an opportunity where you must continue running the lane and finish at the rim as opposed to shooting the three. But if he can get space and he gets his feet set, I'm usually pretty comfortable with it.
Q. You mentioned practice facilities and you're not into glitz and glam. Why do you think so many people build them? There is a huge growth boom across the country of BCS schools. Why do you think that is?
COACH MATTA: It kind of became contagious, I think. All I can really say is for us, because we've got one that will be done in June, July, I think. We need it in terms of class schedules for practice. We've been on an odd schedule this year because with our women's team; they had girls that were graduating, and they had to take certain classes.
So they had to have the practices times when they needed it. This is going to enable us to whenever we want to practice, we're going to be able to practice. I think that's one of the big things.
We also have a facility that's used by multi‑events, so there are times when we need to be able to makeshift whatever we need and go when we want to go. I'm kind of spur of the moment just in terms of changing practice times and that sort of thing. Just trying to keep the guys‑‑ I don't want to say guessing, but we play at some of the oddest times in college basketball. So I try to change practice time on them just to get them used to it.
Q. Wichita State has had some really nice stretches on offense in the NCAA Tournament. Even better than during the regular season at some points. Is it their sets, their motion? What is making them go on offense?
COACH MATTA: Well, first the players. They're extremely talented. They're extremely deep. They've got guys that can do a lot of things from shooting the ball to driving the ball. They're sound in terms of‑‑ very sound in terms of their execution. They've got a good mix of they'll hit you in transition, but then they can also pull it out and run the sets that they run.
Q. Is it better to have kind of a go‑to guy? I guess I'm thinking about LeBron in the 1‑4, pounding the ball and working off the ball screen. Or the diversity that's developing on this team? What is your thought on that?
COACH MATTA: Well, it's great to have both, if you can. I think that's what honestly separates the winning and losing. You look across the board and sometimes we've always talked about the leading scorer in the country nine out of ten years is usually not a great team.
But I think when you've had that situation and I felt that up here when they were talking about Deshaun, as long as there is an element of appreciation and understanding of who the guy is, I think that goes a long, long way in terms of the camaraderie of your basketball team.
At this juncture of the season, that's one of the biggest components, I think, is getting a group of guys to play together.
Q. The way some of your sophomores have developed throughout the season, like LaQuinton and Shannon and coming off the bench, you've got a style that you really let them play through their mistakes and you don't yank them like some coaches do for one mistake. How did you combine that approach? Do you think that is maybe the reason that they're giving you what they are now?
COACH MATTA: I came with that philosophy because I made a lot of mistakes as a player (laughing). No, I think that‑‑ I know I've always said this: As long as I know in my mind that the young man cares about winning. I've never coached a guy that wanted to miss a shot or make a turnover.
If they don't make the same mistake twice, I'm usually okay with it. I think a lot of basketball is confidence; it's knowing that the coaching staff has trust in you, your teammates have trust in you.
Like I said, I'm okay. If one mistake leads to two, then there is an issue. But as long as we can correct the mistake or, hey, I turn it over down here, but I come down and still play defense, I'm okay with that. It's when a guy hangs on to something that's usually when we'll make a substitution.
Q. The evolution of your small lineup since you started using it against Northwestern. Last night and even the past couple games, it's looked like you've been able to dictate more to the opponent with it rather than let the opponent dictate to you. And I know that was probably a big concern of yours last night how Arizona's size might affect it. How have you been able to go with a smaller lineup and dictate, especially against a larger opponent?
COACH MATTA: It's funny because that group has really gained a lot of confidence in terms of what they can do. I go back to the Wisconsin game, the championship game in the Big Ten tournament, and Wisconsin had made a substitution and went back big, and we said, hey, let's give it a couple possessions and see what happens.
That's when Aaron was guarding Berggren in the post, and they threw the ball and we scored it in transition the other way. It was like, hey, this could be problematic on both ends. The one thing I'll say about that lineup, it's long and it's very, very athletic. There is a lot of quickness out there defensively to cover a lot of ground.
Q. Wichita State has a bunch of guys that a lot of people have never heard of, Malcolm Armstead, Cleanthony Early, couple other guys like that. Does that give them a certain chip on their shoulder or swagger? Is there something about the attitude they play with because of that?
COACH MATTA: I'm sure there is, because in today's society with all of the notoriety that players get ‑‑ I've always said this: I've had the privilege of coaching two national players of the year, and neither one of them were top 75 high school players out of high school.
So what does that really mean in the grand scheme of things? As I go out recruiting every year, I can't tell the difference between the 20th player and the 120th player in the country. You know what I'm saying?
So the parity across the board and just the experience that players get. They've obviously chosen a great system to play in. Coach Marshall has done a tremendous job in terms of putting those guys in position to be successful. I think so much of it is probably more of what it is than what you were tabbed as coming out of high school. That doesn't mean a whole lot to me in terms of your ranking of the recruiting class and all that stuff.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall:
Q. For much of the season Ohio State was kind of depicted offensively and probably fairly as Deshaun Thomas and a bunch of other guys. Now Ross and Thompson are chipping in. How much more difficult does that make it? Is it better or worse to have a pretty much determined go‑to guy?
COACH MARSHALL: Well, it's very similar to us, minus the go‑to guy. We've been challenged to score all year long, but we get Ron Baker going now, and he's a difference maker. He's a shot maker, Ron Baker the shot maker. So that helps.
Malcolm's come on offensively over the course of the year. His numbers have continued to rise; and Carl, now healthy, because we played quite a number of games without Carl at all, and yesterday he set the tone by running the court, getting some easy ones around the basket to build the 14‑2 lead.
I'm sure it helps Ohio State, but Ross, I think, was a guy‑‑ I was in here getting my team prepared. He's the one that hit the shot last night against Arizona. They've got a lot of talented guys that can put the ball in the basket. Watching film is scary.
Q. Coach, if you would talk a little bit more about your concern with Ohio State and also anything you recall from your one game at Winthrop against Ohio State?
COACH MARSHALL: I just know Thad does a great job. I'm familiar with Dave Dickerson, Jeff Boals, friends with those guys. They do a tremendous job of developing their players. They're physically strong. They shoot the ball great. There are so many weapons on the perimeter that can stroke the basketball.
Then you've got Craft, you know, he's as tough as they come offensively and defensively. He's driving that ball; he's dumping it off. He's getting other people involved. They don't beat themselves. This is a program since Thad's been there that every year is getting to the Sweet Sixteen or Final Four. It will be our first Elite Eight game, everybody in our locker room. So they have the advantage there, and in one 40‑minute game, you never know.
Q. What will be your plan of attack defensively against Deshaun Thomas?
COACH MARSHALL: Oh, just limit his touches. Make him take hard shots. He is a‑‑ and this is a compliment‑‑ he is a bad shot taker and a bad shot maker. That is hard to do. But that's how talented he is. He can take bad shots and make them. What we've got to do is make him take bad shots and hopefully miss a great majority of them.
Q. Just in the time you've been at Wichita, Butler has been to a National Championship game, VCU has been to the Final Four. You've had success in the tournament. How much in the college basketball world do you feel like perception of the "mid‑majors" has changed quite a bit in a short time?
COACH MARSHALL: I do. And we talked about that earlier. I think it started with Mark Few, and I'm sure there were mid‑majors prior to that, Indiana State in '79. But let's talk about in the last 20 years, I guess. It was Gonzaga, and then George Mason, VCU, Butler, Davidson, College of Charleston, they won a game. I think they beat Stanford right after I left. Some of the players that I helped coach and recruit when I went to Marshall, I think in '95, they beat Stanford in the first round and lost to Arizona, who ended up winning the whole thing, and they had a shot to beat Arizona that I think Bibby and Miles Simon were on that team. But they beat Maryland in the first round. I apologize.
But those things happen more readily now, and I don't know why. I'm not smart enough to figure all of that out. Maybe it's coaching stability. I don't know.
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Stay tuned all week for more coverage of OSU basketball at the NCAA West Regional. More stuff to check out:
Click here for Lee Caryer’s column after OSU’s win over Arizona.
Click here for Dave Biddle’s What We Learned column after OSU’s win over Arizona.
Click here for our detailed game story with videos, quotes and notes.
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