This is March. The NCAA tournament is officially here and it is time to see the nets cut, hearts break and upsets become real. Of the four Big Ten teams that made the big dance, the Ohio State Buckeyes have the highest chance at a first round exit as they face the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in Boise, Idaho in the dreaded 5 vs. 12 match up. This game features Kieta Bates-Diop, the Big Ten player of the year and Mike Daum, the Summit League player of the year and one of the better mid major players in the country. Let’s take a look at how these two teams stack up against each other and some keys to the game.
No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 12 South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Time/TV: 4:00 PM ET/TNT
KenPom Spread: Ohio State (-8)
1. Contain Mike Daum
Mike Daum has been a force in College Basketball his whole career but he has been a different monster this year. The Junior is averaging 23.8 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game while shooting 42 percent from three. More than likely Kieta Bates-Diop and Andre Wesson will be tasked with stopping him and they will need to force him into passing situations and get the other Jackrabbits involved.
If they struggle to double him and get him in one on one situations, he can really make them pay. He has 12 30-point games this year including two 37 point outings. He can score the ball just about as good as anyone in the country.
2. Ohio State needs to guard the perimeter
If Ohio State wants to avoid the upset, they have to run the Jackrabbits off the 3-point line. They shoot it at an impressive 40.3 percent on the year with Senior Guard Skyler Flatten leading the way at 50.5 percent. Ohio State is not a great perimeter defense team as they are ninth in the Big Ten in 3-point defense at 34.6 percent and many of their losses have come due to struggling to defend the three.
The Buckeyes need to get South Dakota State in the paint where they have the advantage and make them take contested mid range and close range shots.
3. Tate and Bates-Diop need to run this game
No one will deny the undisputed leaders for this Ohio State team on the year have been Jae’Sean Tate and Kieta Bates-Diop. These seniors are the most important part of this team and when they are both playing well, the Buckeyes have proven that they can play with just about anyone in the country. However, when they struggle it becomes an uphill battle for Ohio State.
If Tate and Bates-Diop play well, that opens up the floor for the hot shooting of C.J Jackson and Kam Williams and once those guys get going, they are hard to cool down. Williams especially as he is one of the streakiest and best shooters in the Big Ten and they will need him to step up and take pressure off the other two seniors.
Ohio State is also not a deep team so they will need their seniors to play high minutes, stay out of foul trouble and give solid minutes to the team and coach Holtmann.
I think this game will be close throughout but when it is said and done, the Buckeyes will pull away in the final minutes and win by 10.
Pick against the Spread: Ohio State