LOS ANGELES (AP) — During Ohio State’s journey to the Final Four last season, Aaron Craft learned the importance of focusing on the next 40 minutes, not the three-week trip.
So Craft didn’t realize the highest seeds in the West Regional were dropping like dominoes until earlier this week. He purposely didn’t learn much about ninth-seeded Wichita State until Thursday night, when the powerful Buckeyes found out they’re facing the unheralded Shockers on Saturday for another ticket to the Final Four.
“I think that really helped a lot — just getting caught up in the moment and thinking about where you are and what you need to do to get out,” Ohio State’s star point guard said. “We watch all the games. Obviously we’re basketball fans, but I kept saying, ‘Where is this team? Which bracket is this in? What is that?’ It wasn’t until after we played Iowa State that I realized our bracket was being destroyed number-wise, and really realizing how tough every team was.”
Craft’s point is a theme echoed on both sides of Staples Center on Friday during workouts for the final game in a regional that emphasized the parity throughout college basketball when six of the top eight seeds lost on the first weekend.
Anybody who tries to paint this matchup as David facing down Goliath will get polite disagreement from the supposed big guy and the alleged little guy alike.
That’s just not how college basketball works anymore, according to both Craft and Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. Neither team has any doubt Wichita State (29-8) belongs on the same court with the mighty Buckeyes (29-7) for a chance to go to Atlanta.
“We have to go out there and play our hearts out,” Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early said. “So regardless if their facilities are a little bit bigger than ours, they’ve got to lace up their shoes just like us.”