It’s the Big 12 against the Big Ten, something Iowa State has already dealt with, beating Illinois on a neutral cOurt, but losing at Iowa. Ohio State is somewhere between those teams and that will hopefully make it a close Game. The Cyclones were early -5.5 point favorites (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) for the Game in Tulsa.
Ohio State’s had a weird season, from being the first team ranked No. 1 in the NET’s debut to falling apart in Conference play and finishing 8-12. After beating Indiana in the Conference Tournament, the Buckeyes are here, mostly thanks to Kaleb Wesson, who returned from suspension. It’s been a fairly similar story for Iowa State in that it faltered at the end of the regular season, losing five of six Games, but then came around in the Big 12 Tournament, beating three NCAA Tourney teams in three days.
That’s the main reason most will be backing the Cyclones and because the Buckeyes just don’t have a ton of talent. Wesson’s (14.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) main advantage is that he can use his body down low, but also step out and hit threes if that’s not working. The problem is that Iowa State has bigs that do the same thing, led by Michael Jacobson. The other problem for the Bucks is that they don’t have any other consistent scorers with C.J. Jackson (12.2 ppg) a hard guy to trust even though he’s the best three-point shooter on the team at 38.2%. Otherwise, it’s a mystery as to who will score, whether that’s Andre Wesson, LUther Muhammad or Keyshawn Woods. Production elsewhere is often unreliable and that’s not a great strategy against an ISU offense that ranks ninth in the country in efficiency.
While Marial Shayok (18.6 ppg) is the leading scorer and will always get his buckets, the Cyclones often have Four other guys on the cOurt that can create on their own. They aren’t a great shooting team, but everyone on the cOurt will shoot. Whether that’s NBA prospect Lindell Wigginton off the bench, or freshman Tyrese Haliburton, who leads the team at 44.1% from deep. That still doesn’t include Talen Horton-Tucker, who has had multiple 20-point Games and do-it-all guard Nick Babb.
That versatility is Ohio State’s main issue and while it has solid defensive numbers for the season, it ranked eighth in the Big Ten in terms of efficiency, giving up too many easy looks and too many free throws. The main edge the Buckeyes could have in this Game is if they can control the glass, but that’s still not a great area for them. Kaleb Wesson should muscle his way close to 10 boards if he’s stays out of foul trouble, but it’s not like they have a major size advantage with Andre Wesson, Musa Jallow or Kyle Young at the Four spot.
OSU’s best chance of winning would be if Kaleb Wesson wins his matchup consistently and doesn’t get into foul trouble against Jacobson. Otherwise, the Bucks don’t have one guy that can mark up Shayok, and if he gets going, that will only leave for more open shots to everyone else. Defense is sometimes the better way to go, but Ohio State’s isn’t good enough to take that route against a top-tier ISU offense.
Our Pick – Iowa State -5.5