After the Ohio State Buckeyes weathered a fierce comeback by the Arizona Wildcats and used yet another last-second three-pointer to wiggle their way into the Elite Eight, they were probably very interested in the results of the Wichita State-La Salle battle. No doubt they were rooting for the Explorers, who are far more quick than they are big. The Buckeyes have the athleticism to hang with Tyrone Garland and Ramon Galloway, and Jerrell Wright is not enough on his own to hang with DeShaun Thomas, Evan Ravenel, LaQuinton Ross and all the other size they have.
Instead, they got perhaps their worst nightmare - literally. This is a Wichita State team that, without having to cherry pick details and stats, has a legitimate shot to take down their counterparts from The Ohio State University, while reminding them of several of the players they struggled with throughout the season..
The Shockers have everything they need. In Carl Hall, they have an athletic, aggressive forward who rebounds and defends his position well and will take the game right at the Buckeyes, not unlike Duke's Mason Plumlee). In Malcolm Armstead, the Shockers have a steady hand at the point who does his job as a distributor; but they dare not let him get hot from long range, or he will give OSU absolute fits (like Wisconsin's Ben Brust).
In Cleanthony Early, the Shockers have a sidekick for Hall, a surprisingly efficient scorer (112.5 per KenPom) who is able to start or come off the bench with equal effectiveness and is dangerous... but unpolished - not all that different from Indiana's Christian Watford.
Recently returning to the lineup, the Shockers have Ron Baker, who is a fearlessly aggressive defender and shooter who can kill you with his sniping from distance or by outhustling you to that rebound you thought you had, similar to Iowa State's Tyrus McGee - Baker is actually the Shocker's most efficient offensive player on a per-possession basis (yes, more so than even Hall).
Lastly, they have Ehimen Orukpe. He may not be the most offensively gifted big man when he is on the court, but he can be a defensive nightmare, with a block percentage (12.7%) that would be 12th nationally if he played enough minutes to qualify. Think of him as a poor man's Jeff Withey.
Now, obviously none of these comparisons are exact. But Wichita is efficient on offense, aggressive at both ends, and big enough to hang with the Buckeyes as well as any team in the Big Ten as long as they are executing. The Buckeyes should be worried, because their best case scenario might be another nail-biting, buzzer-beating win.
The Shockers are no lock, though. They have had issues this season with containing scorers who know how to find their way to the basket like Doug McDermott and Colt Ryan (Aaron Craft anyone?). They have had difficulty with teams that match-up against them on defense and force them to work as long as possible for the right shot - something Thad Matta's teams are notorious for.
There's no way that the Buckeyes can lose this game. Or perhaps not.
Wichita State 77, Ohio State 75.