What can I say about Ohio State basketball that hasn't already been said this season? The defense is good. The offense is bad. Aaron Craft is very overrated. LaQuinton Ross is very underrated (which is funny, because look who scores all the points).
To avoid being upset against Dayton in the very first game of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, Ohio State needs for Ross to score at an efficient pace, for Craft to be a solid second scorer without racking up too many turnovers, and for the defense to play like it has all season.
Well, except for that last game against Michigan, when the Buckeyes allowed their rivals to shoot 52 percent from three-point range. Considering that statistic, it's pretty impressive that Ohio State only lost by three points, but let's be real: There are no moral victories for Thad Matta's squad, especially not in March.
What that Big Ten Tournament semifinal really taught us (besides that the Bucks can score when they need to) is that the 70-point threshold is pretty accurate in predicting Ohio State wins and losses. Allow an opponent to score more than 70 points, and the Buckeyes have a good chance at losing. In the team's last five losses, four opponents scored between 70 and 72 points. That's whacky.
But is it relevant? Dayton plays at a pace just as slow as Ohio State's, but they seem to be comfortable at any tempo. The Flyers have several wins in which they score in the 80s, but also some in which they score in the 60s. As the most efficient offense in the Atlantic 10, they have made a ton of three-pointers this season. Former Buckeye Jordan Sibert has taken and made the most (75-for-171, 44 percent), which goes to show you how far he's come since his Columbus days.
Dayton's scariest player, though, might be senior forward Devin Oliver. He averages 12.1 points per game and can score from anywhere with a field goal percentage at almost exactly 50 percent. He's not shy about shooting treys either, with 36 makes out of 92 shots on the season. More than just an efficient scorer, Oliver fills the stat sheet with 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game (both figures lead the team). He's the kind of guy who makes me wish I would stop being lazy and form a college basketball fantasy league already.
Oliver usually plays power forward in Archie Miller's lineup, which means he'll likely be checked by Ross. That will be a fascinating matchup to watch as well as the one between Sibert and whichever one of his former teammates decides to guard him.
Ohio State doesn't allow its foes to get comfortable at the arc, but we know from watching Michigan that if a team can shoot, it can have a good game against anybody. That's what Dayton is hoping for on Thursday afternoon. If the Bucks can shut down the shooting, it's very likely game over, because the Flyers don't play excellent defense. Their two most glaring weaknesses: they allow a lot of field goal attempts and they don't block a lot of shots. That opens up a lot of possibilities for Ross (who loves to draw fouls) and Craft (who likes to get in the lane against teams that can't get in his way) to work their magic and get Ohio State the victory.
The tournament needs to get off to a good start, so I'm making it close. Ohio State 69, Dayton 65.