South Dakota State
South Dakota State has been a popular upset pick in recent seasons, although that hasn’t amounted to much as it is 0-4 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. The Jackrabbits will once again be a popular upset pick, especially in the 5-12 matchup against an Ohio State team that surpassed its talent level this season. Still, the Buckeyes were early -8.5 point favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
SDSU challenged itself in non-conference, yet didn’t win any of those Games, losing bad at Kansas and then by 10 points at Wichita State. It won’t be scared of this matchup, but after running through the Summit League, it may not be ready. Ohio State had an issue with Penn State this season and outside of that, this team really surprised in Big Ten play, going 15-4 with the Tournament included. The Buckeyes didn’t have a bad loss all season even if some would argue Penn State isn’t a good one.
The most interesting thing will be the matchups in this Game as there are two high-end players on both sides. Mike Daum is everything for the Jackrabbits and averages an outlandish 23.8 points and 10.4 boards per Game to go with 42.1% from deep. Keita Bates-Diop isn’t far behind with 19.4 points and 8.8 boards on 35.8% from deep against better competition. But while Bates-Diop was one of the best defenders in the Big Ten this season, he may not be asked to defend Daum because the two play different spots. That said, OSU big man Kaleb Wesson doesn’t often guard centers that can stretch the floor.
Stopping Daum will be Ohio State’s first priority and whether that’s left to Bates-Diop or Wesson, they have the tools to do so. It also helps that the Buckeyes saw Mo Wagner (Michigan) twice this season, someone that isn’t too different from Daum stylistically. If the Buckeyes stop Daum, that may be all they need, although David Jenkins and Reed Tellinghuisen both average double digits and shoot it well from deep.
ACCording to the numbers, there isn’t a stat that stands out between these teams. SDSU doesn’t force many turnovers so that won’t help its upset potential, while OSU’s defense ranks better efficiently than SDSU’s offense. The Jackrabbits have incredible numbers, but it’s hard to put much into them when they’re destroying Summit League teams. This is still a team that got handled by Wyoming and Missouri State in neutral Games earlier in the season.
On the other end, SDSU’s main goal will be to stop Bates-Diop and after he just torched the Big Ten, there’s no reason to believe the Jackrabbits can do that. Daum likely won’t be tasked with him, which means Tellinghuisen could be the guy and while he has length, he doesn’t have much else to thwart Bates-Diop. The Buckeye should power his way in the paint, but also have the athleticism to do whatever he wants in that matchup. Elsewhere, Skyler Flatten is a decent matchup for Jae’Sean Tate as Flatten’s size should help in dealing with Tate’s bulkiness. As for Daum, his matchup with Wesson isn’t exactly the easiest when those go after it in the paint.
South Dakota State presents an interesting challenge, but Ohio State has the bodies to throw at Daum and Bates-Diop will be a problem at both ends of the floor for the Jackrabbits, which should be what decides this Game. If the shots fall, SDSU could keep it close, but Chris Holtmann and OSU will be ready to lock down Daum.
Our Pick – Ohio State -8