For Ohio State fans, they know exactly how much this game means. Penn State is 2-0 against them this year with a Tony Carr half court buzzer beater to beat them in Columbus and a 79-56 thrashing at Penn State. For Ohio State, this is the game to redeem all of that and move on to the semifinal game.
For Penn State, they are still on the bubble and need a couple of quality wins to try and get on the right side of the bubble. They had a good chance to do just that in the season finale against Nebraska but they did not put up a great showing, losing 76-64. A big question for them will be how can they perform without big man Mike Watkins, who is out for the tournament with a knee injury.
Ohio State had a bye to the quarterfinals and Penn State defeated Northwestern 65-57 in their first game. This will be a fun watch and makes for an intriguing match up in the Friday slate of games along with Nebraska-Michigan.
Let’s take a look at the key factors for both teams in this game.
1. Who can replace Watkins?
For Penn State, Mike Watkins has been ruled out for this weekend’s Tournament. Since he is officially out, they will need someone to step in and fill that role. Ohio State is a great rebounding team with Kaleb Wesson, Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate and, as such, the Nittany Lions will need someone to help down low.
Heading into this game, Penn State’s best two best rebounders (outside of Watkins) are Lamar Stevens and Josh Reaves, who are both guards. They will need guys like Julian Moore to step in and help the guards crash the boards.
2. Stop. Tony. Carr.
It seems so simple at the surface, but it has proven to be so difficult. In their two meetings so far this year, Tony Carr is averaging 29 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists against the Buckeyes. Carr also hit a half court buzzer beater to win the first game at Columbus. CJ Jackson, Kam Williams and Andrew Dakich will have the opportunity to guard him and will need to make sure they force him into contested jumpers and take away the dribble drive.
With Mike Watkins out, there will be even more pressure on Tony Carr to have a big game and fill the stat sheet. It will be key for Lamar Stevens and Josh Reaves to have solid, efficient games to take some burden and attention off of Carr.
3. Ohio State in the paint.
As almost of these keys do, this one comes back to no Mike Watkins as well. Ohio State has two very good big men in Kaleb Wesson and Micah Potter and both can score the basketball at a high level and a huge part of this game will come down to them.
With Mike Watkins sitting out, Potter and Wesson both need to get in the paint, post up and get points down low to open up shots for CJ Jackson and Kam Williams behind the arc. Watkins did a good job of keeping them in check the first two games so it will be interesting to see the opportunities that open up for these two centers.
This should be a fun one. Expect a competitive game that goes down to the wire. Penn State’s NCAA Tournament hopes will be on the line.