Perhaps one of the toughest draws in all of the NCAA Tournament is Ohio State matching up with South Dakota State. Though the Buckeyes were a rightful five seed, they unfortunately fall into the “upset potential” category in this game. For as long as we can remember, 12 seeds have been considered sexy picks when filling out your brackets. Whether or not those considerations are accurate is up in the air, but this bout is different.
South Dakota State is an experienced and talented team, moreso than in years past. They have made the NCAA Tournament the last three seasons out of the Summit League. The Jackrabbits also almost defeated another Big Ten foe, Maryland, two seasons ago in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
With that being said, the two teams match-up fairly evenly. Obviously, the focus for Ohio State will be put on Summit League Player of the Year Mike Daum. He will likely be matched up with Kaleb Wesson simply due to the size comparison. However, Daum is a versatile player which will force Wesson to play away from the basket. While that match-up may be the most intriguing on paper, it is not the one that will make the most impact.
Who will get tasked with guarding South Dakota State’s fabulous freshman David Jenkins Jr.? In all honesty, Jenkins Jr. was the reason the Jackrabbits won the Summit League tournament. Sure, Mike Daum played well in all three of their tournament games, but it was Jenkins Jr. who stepped up when Daum was on the bench due to foul trouble. The freshman scored 24 and 29 points respectively in the Summit League semi-final and final. In both of those games, Jenkins shot at least 53 percent from the field.
He has a quick first step toward the basket which allows him to blow by slower defenders. However, if defenders lay off him to limit the drive, he can shoot as good as any player on the Jackrabbits roster. Not to mention how deadly his step back is. Jenkins’ ability to change pace and create space to shoot is unmatched by anyone in the Summit League for sure. Even if a defender is capable of contesting one of his shots, he can still knock them down. For a freshman, he truly is a hell of a basketball player.
At 6-foot-2, Jenkins actually plays more off-ball as Tevin King or Brandon Key are the usual ball handlers. My guess is that Kam Williams will get the call to defend Jenkins as the game begins. There may be times where C.J. Jackson is matched up with him, but more often than not it will be Williams.
This is the most pivotal match-up in this game. Mike Daum has been able to carry this team at times throughout this season. However, the Summit League is not the Big Ten (although I think Daum is good enough to dominate a Big Ten teams too). Never the less, if the Jackrabbits can provide supplemental support to Daum, that is the biggest key to victory. That begins with the play of David Jenkins Jr.
In all honesty, Ohio State does not match-up particularly well with South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits hold a slight height advantage and they can be an absolute juggernaut offensively. With that being said, the Buckeyes are the better overall team in my opinion. However, that really means nothing in the NCAA Tournament as we are well aware.
Obviously, Mike Daum is the focus for the Buckeyes, but I am afraid that if Ohio State overlooks the other Jackrabbits, they will struggle mightily. We see teams do this with lower seeds in the NCAA Tournament all the time. If Ohio State falls into that pattern of focusing on one “notable” player, they will lose this game, handily. It is a slippery slope for the Buckeyes as they go up against a very worthy opponent in South Dakota State.