After a stunning opening weekend in which the No. 1, 3, 4 and 5 seeds all lost, action in the West Regional will resume on Thursday with a pair of games at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. In the opener, No. 6 seed Arizona takes on No. 2 Ohio State, while in the nightcap, surprising No. 13 seed La Salle squares off with the equally surprising No. 9 seed Wichita State Shockers.
Action will open with a 7:47 p.m. ET tipoff between Ohio State and Arizona, in a matchup between the two top-seeded teams remaining in this bracket. And if half the experts at CBS Sports are correct, the upsets could continue in the West Region; two of the website's four writers have picked the Wildcats to get the win.
Meanwhile at NBC Sports, writer Rob Dauster believes that this game all comes down to matchups. As Dauster explains it, if Arizona can exert their size on Ohio State, the Wildcats will have the edge. If Ohio State can speed things up with their smaller lineup however, the Buckeyes will likely be victorious, according to Dauster:
Arizona is as big as anyone in the country, especially at the times where they slide Solomon Hill down to the three and play two of their freshmen bigs together. Ohio State, currently the hottest team in the country, has made their late season run by going small, using Deshaun Thomas, Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross as their front court rotation. Will the Buckeyes be forced to play big, or will Arizona have to play small to matchup with Ohio State?
In the second game on the West docket, two of the NCAA Tournament's remaining Cinderella teams square off, when No. 13 seed La Salle takes on No. 9 Wichita State at 10:17 p.m. ET. Each club has taken a surprising path to get to the Sweet 16, with La Salle opening their NCAA Tournament run in a First Four matchup last Wednesday, while Wichita State knocked off the West's No. 1 seed, Gonzaga, to punch their ticket to Los Angeles.
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And when these two teams get to the Staples Center, NBC Sports' Dauster believes that Shockers forward Cleanthony Early will be key. The junior has averaged 18.5 points per game in Wichita State's two NCAA Tournament victories, and because of it, La Salle could have trouble slowing him down.
Early is the guy that solves Wichita State’s matchup problem. The Explorers play four guards at once, especially with Steve Zack still injured. Early is the most talented player on the Shockers, a 6-foot-8 forward with perimeter skills. He can defend on the perimeter as well, and while you might not want to stick him on Ramon Galloway, he should be able to hold his own against Sam Mills. If he does, he creates the matchup problem at the other end with his size.
Meanwhile, the experts at CBS are split. Two have picked La Salle to advance to Saturday's regional final, while two others chose Wichita State.
The winners of Thursday's games will advance to Saturday's West Regional final.