The Orange will try to advance to the Final Four for the first time since the 2003 season when they play Ohio State, their second Big 10 foe in a row, in Boston.
ZONE VERSUS ZONE? Ohio State coach Thad Matta tried a new wrinkle in practice this week. The Buckeyes, who normally play man-to-man defense, practiced in zone to prepare for their Sweet 16 game against Cincinnati, with a look toward an Elite 8 matchup with Syracuse. Matta tinkered with the idea of going zone against Syracuse, which, for a team that plays in zone most of the time on defense, ironically struggles against it on offense. “We went against zone in practice and left with a ton of confidence on offense because the zone was so bad,” Matta said during the media session on Friday afternoon. “So we’re not going to do that.” Needless to say, Syracuse will be facing man defense on Saturday. “We’re into Game 30, whatever it is,” Matta said. “We kind of are who we are from that standpoint.”
SCOUTING THE BUCKEYES: With the exception of senior guard William Buford, Ohio State is relatively inexperienced, with sophomores Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith Jr. playing alongside him. Sullinger is normally the first look inside, and if teams choose to collapse down low, Thomas, Buford, Craft and Smith are all lethal shooters from beyond the arc, each shooting above a 34 percent clip. It has been a formula that has allowed them to average 75 points a game and shoot 48.6 percent from the field, good for 12th in the country.
IN OHIO STATE’S LAST GAME: The Buckeyes led Cincinnati by 12 and halftime and seemed to have control of the game. But a 21-6 run had the opportunistic Bearcats thinking upset. Ohio State immediately responded with a 17-1 run and ended up winning 81-66. Thomas had 26 to lead the way.
HISTORICALLY SPEAKING: The last time these two teams met, Ohio State defeated the Orange, 79-65, at Madison Square Garden in the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals. Donte Greene lead Syracuse with 21 points and Eric Devendorf chipped in 15 in the losing effort. The Buckeyes own a 4-2 advantage in the all-time series.
GAME INFORMATION: Sat., Mar. 24, 7:05 p.m. Boston, MA. TV: CBS. Follow us on Twitter @thejuiceonline for live game updates.