After starting the season 15-0, Ohio State was in the first conversations for a 1-seed back in January. Their record since then is 10-9 and the Buckeyes are now a tricky 6-seed. Their opponent will be Dayton, who was considered by many to be a bubble team, but they just missed the play-in Game. The Buckeyes come in as -5.5 point favorites.
Ohio State still hasn’t lost a non-Conference Game this year, although their best wins aren’t to die for over Marquette, NDSU and Delaware. While the Buckeyes have nice wins over Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska, they also got swept by Penn State.
The Flyers were rated highly in the early season after wins over Gonzaga and California, but that ranking eventually dissolved due to losses against Illinois State and USC. To make matters worse, they started 1-5 in Conference play and looked doomed. However, things turned around as they won 10 of their last 12 Games with the two losses coming to St. Joseph’s. They beat fellow Tourney teams George Washington, UMass and Saint Louis in that stretch.
The thing about OSU is that their offense is too inconsistent to fall in love with them too much. While they have great defenders in Aaron Craft and Shannon SCott, it’s hard to go all-in with them due to a weak offense. They weren’t all that bad in non-Conference Games, but problems started to set in during the Big Ten season.
LAQuinton Ross is their best pure scorer and has reached 19 points in six straight Games. However, he can’t do it all. Lenzelle Smith Jr. is the biggest question as he has six total points in the last two Games even though he’s the team’s second leading scorer. Everyone knows that Craft’s offense is limited, so it’ll fall to a guy like SCott or even Sam Thompson to become contributors in the Tourney.
The Flyers are somewhat similar, but their main task will be to not turn it over. OSU pounces on turnovers and that’s one of the main ways that they capitalize. Dayton averages about 12 turnovers per Game so they aren’t great and as seen in their 18 turnovers against VCU, can be rattled.
SCoring wise, the Flyers have a number of guys that can put the ball in the hoop, but not one guy that’s going to stand out. Devin Oliver and Dyshawn Pierre will be the two key players as both have size and can stretch the floor, but also be factors down low. Jordan Sibert and Vee Sanford are decent-sized guards and could make a difference, although it’s likely Craft will be on whoever has the hot hand.
All five of the Flyers top scorers can shoot from outside which can help open up the OSU defense and get guys like Amir Williams on the outside.
If Dayton doesn’t commit stupid turnovers and plays safe, they will be in this Game. But if the Flyers are reckless and open up the Game for Craft and company to play their Game, it will be tough. Due to their range of scorers though, Dayton will be a tough first Game for the Buckeyes.