NCAA Tournament South Region Preview: (6) Ohio State Buckeyes vs. (11) Dayton Flyers
Betting odds courtesy of Bovada
The Ohio State Buckeyes had been on a roll of sorts in the Big Ten tournament, before running into the Michigan Wolverines, who dismantled its conference title chances by winning 72-69. OSU had taken down a tough Michigan State team (Barack Obama’s favorite to win the NCAA Tournament), Purdue and Nebraska prior to the loss. The Buckeyes began the season with 15 straight wins, before things began to unravel. Since Jan 7, the Buckeyes have gone just 10-9. Ohio State drew Dayton in second round play, and college basketball oddsmakers expect OSU to be able to handle this matchup, favoring it by six points.
OSU point guard Aaron Craft missed a potential game-tying three in the loss to Michigan, but the 6’2″ senior has turned in another strong campaign. He’s slated as a potential second-round draft pick in the NBA draft, but Craft has the tools that could allow him to thrive at the next level. He’s a great anticipator on defense, averaging 2.5 steals per game, his highest since his sophomore season. He’s not a lights out three-point shooter, but Craft is good from mid range and hits 46.5 percent from the field. OSU will turn to him for leadership and for his playmaking skills, and Craft should be able to exploit Dayton.
LaQuinton Ross is the leading scorer for Ohio State at 15.4 points per game. He also leads the team in rebounding, averaging 6.1 boards per game. He’s taken on a much bigger role now as an upper classman and he enters the tournament on a bit of a tear. Ross has scored 19 points or better in his last six games. It’s notable that the Buckeyes are just 5-3 when Ross scores greater than 20 points though, so balance will be key. Most importantly for OSU, it keeps its turnovers low, averaging just 11 per game. That helps compensate for the lack of rebounding (34.1 per game), and middling effectiveness shooting the ball (44.9 percent team field goal percentage).
The Dayton Flyers ended the season by winning eight of its last 11 games, and all three losses came to St. Joe’s. But the Flyers have shown it can hang with big time competition. It defeated then-No. 11 Gonzaga on Nov 25 and then-No. 17 Saint Louis on Mar 5; and only lost by one point to Baylor on Nov 26. Thus, despite the relative weakness of its schedule, Dayton cannot be simply written off against a team from a tougher conference.
The Flyers shoot the ball well (46.6 percent team field goal percentage) and have a deep team, extending the rotation nine players deep. No single Flyer puts up outstanding numbers, but the team still averages 73 points per game and has three double-digit scorers. Keep an eye on 6’7″ senior Devin Oliver, who ranks 2nd on the team in scoring and leads it in rebounding. He’s averaging a double-double over his past three contests (14 points and 10 rebounds) and has a good, disciplined shot selection. While no Flyer may be poised to erupt and have the game of his life, a good balanced attack could render this game closer than the college odds predict.
OSU Trends: OVER 6-2 in last 8 neutral site games; OVER 21-8 in last 29 NCAA tournament games.