Around The-Ozone Water Cooler: How Far Will the Buckeyes Advance in the NCAA Tournament?
By The-Ozone Staff
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It's not March Madness around here without a long talk around the water cooler about how we see the Buckeyes faring in the Tournament this year. All things being equal, Ohio State has a very favorable road to Atlanta, though this could simply be a trap. (There's always somebody who thinks everything is a trap.)
There is also the constant lamenting about how the first day of the Tourney didn't go that well for our brackets. It's an annual tradition. "And now we will begin the 'Wailing of the Bad Picks'." Don't worry, we'll save you the misery of reading about that part, because it gets very, very ugly really, really quickly.
Tony Gerdeman: I'll be honest, I quickly filled out two brackets and had Ohio State reaching the Final Four in both. And as I write this on a Friday morning, hours after watching #3-seed New Mexico fall to Haaaaahhhhvvvuuuuuhhhd, I'm feeling even better about my pick(s).
The thing about the Buckeyes is that as you look at the bracket, they should beat everybody in the West Region. In fact, they will likely be favorites all of the way through to the Final Four. They have no bad losses this season. Yes, they have a couple of blowout losses, but every loss this season came against a ranked team. The only other team in their region who can say that is Gonzaga, and they went 1-2 against ranked opponents this year.
I keep saying that this is a flawed Ohio State team, but the entire region is flawed. Assuming the Buckeyes get by Iona, they'd be facing the winner of Iowa State and Notre Dame. The Cyclones dropped a game at Iowa and Texas this year, as well as a game to the 11-20 Texas Tech Red Raiders. The Irish, meanwhile, have losses to St. Joe's and St. John's, who finished 10th and 11th in their respective conferences.
While Buckeye Nation will likely be rooting for Harvard against Arizona, we can't assume the Wildcats will be up next. No matter what you think of Harvard right now, they still lost nine games playing a very easy schedule, including three in Ivy League play. Arizona went 5-5 in their last 10 conference games, featuring losses against Colorado and USC. Also, they went 0-3 against UCLA this year.
Much like watching New Mexico fall last night, we also got to see Gonzaga struggle against a 16-seed yesterday. That gives me further confidence for the Buckeyes, as I have them getting past the Zags in both of my brackets. That's where I have things ending, however, because I just can't pick them to get past Duke.
The Blue Devils are 18-1 with Ryan Kelly in the lineup, and 4-0 against top five teams. One of those four wins, by the way, came against Ohio State. However, Duke did have to make a comeback in that game, which was in Cameron Indoor.
But who knows, maybe the Buckeyes will enter their next Blue Devil meeting with even more confidence than last time. After all, they nearly won the first matchup, and they're a better team now than they were then.
Brandon Castel: If the Buckeyes make it past the Sweet Sixteen this year, and it’s all there for them, this will have to go down as one of the more improbable seasons in school history. Certainly the Selection Committee did Thad Matta and his team some favors with their draw in the West – not that it makes up for that brutal region two years ago when they probably had the best team in the country, but Matta deserves most of the credit.
And the players, of course. If you would have told me a month ago this team would be a trendy pick for the Final Four, and one of the favorites to at least play for a title in Atlanta, I would have spit my water out from laughing so hard. The Buckeyes were rattled with deficiencies, chief among them the fact they had nobody to help alleviate some of the scoring burden from Deshaun Thomas.
The kid scored 28 points in one of the most heroic performances of all time at the Breslin Center earlier this year. His reward? Shannon Scott heaved a prayer that never had a shot at the end and the Buckeyes lost. But Scott deserves a lot of credit too. Instead of crumbling into a mess after that ill-advised shot, Scott has responded with some outstanding play in the last month.
If he can continue to play at a high level, and the Buckeyes can get contributions from Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross, there is no reason this team can’t make a run at Atlanta. Especially in this bracket. And especially now that they are staring down Harvard instead of New Mexico.
Ultimately, I have them getting to Los Angeles next week, where they knock out No. 1 Gonzaga (assuming they’re still alive) to make it back to the Final Four. That’s as far as I can take them, however. The Midwest is a loaded bracket, and whoever comes out is going to be playing at a very high level. It would be interesting if it was Michigan State, but I think Louisville or Duke will emerge from that group and I like both of them better than the Buckeyes. I have Louisville winning it all in my bracket, but I think Duke with a healthy Ryan Kelly would also be too much for Matta and these Buckeyes.
Michael Chung: I am in agreement with my colleague Tony Gerdeman that the Buckeyes will make the Final Four. College Basketball teams that advance in the Tourney usually possess a superior point guard, an NBA caliber prospect, and solid team defense. I think Ohio State has all these ingredients.
Do the Buckeyes have strong guard play and a superior point guard? The answer must be yes. Aaron Craft led OSU last year to a Final Four, and from all signs during the last eight games, Craft is even better. Tony Gerdeman writes, “Craft is currently shooting 56.9% from the field during Ohio State's eight-game winning streak, and of his 28 missed field goal attempts in that span, 10 have been from three-point territory. That means he's shooting 64.7% from two-point range.”
With Craft growing as an offensive threat, teams will not be able to key on Deshaun Thomas like they use too. Last year, Craft was not strong shooting from the outside but the last eight games appears to have offered up evidence that this year’s Craft is more of a threat which will open up the floor for others.
With the talent pool in NCAA basketball somewhat watered down due to early entries into the NBA, there are fewer and fewer NBA-caliber players who are upperclassmen playing in the Tourney. Teams that advance during March Madness usually possess one player that is a significant NBA prospect. Ohio State has at least one in Deshaun Thomas.
Defense wins championships not only in football but just about every sport and NCAA basketball is no different. One thing the Buckeyes possess is a strong defense. Strong point guard play, a future NBA player, and a strong defense. These are the three main reasons I believe the Buckeyes will go to the Final Four.
Andrew Lind: Every year there seems to be one team that gets hot towards the end of the season, wins their conference tournament in convincing fashion, and becomes a popular pick to reach the Final Four and possibly even cut down the nets. This year, it's the Buckeyes. What seems to be the easiest region of the bracket makes it hard to pick against these Buckeyes, but I don't think Buckeye Nation should book a trip to Atlanta just yet.
When I look at this team, I don't see the Big Ten Champion Buckeyes, I see a team that got outplayed in all facets of the game by teams like Kansas and Indiana (at home, no less). I see a team that lacks a player who can take over a whole tournament, like Kemba Walker did for UConn two seasons ago, or a player who will step up and take over a game if Deshaun Thomas starts missing shots and becomes frustrated or Aaron Craft gets into foul trouble and becomes ineffective.
On the positive side, Gonzaga looks to be the weakest #1-seed, but didn't the Zags give a better Buckeye team all it could handle last year? After seeing the way this team has responded since it's blowout loss a month ago at Wisconsin, I want to pick this team to the Final Four, but I just don't see it.
So where do I see this team falling? I've been critical of this team all season and I've said they won't make it out of the first weekend on many occasions. I still have this team losing in the round of 32, to #11-seed Iowa State. The Cyclones rank 4th nationally in points per game, with most of their points coming from the three point line. As a team, they made 878 three pointers, by far the most in the nation.
By basically playing five guards, the Cyclones will force Buckeye big men out to defend the perimeter. If Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams can avoid gravitating to the paint on defense and can contest shots, the Buckeyes will win. I expect them to struggle, giving the Cyclones the opportunity for an upset, something they are familiar with after knocking off Kansas State and hanging tough with Kansas in all three contests.
Ken Pryor: After giving careful consideration to the West region, I really like the Buckeyes chances of advancing to the Final Four. Those who have seen my posts on forum would probably call me a band-wagoner, as I have, admittedly, been critical of this team all year. I didn’t think they shot the ball very well as a team and only one man (Deshaun Thomas) comported himself as a reliable scorer. I thought fans placed too much emphasis on the suffocating defense that the Buckeyes play while ignoring their scoring woes and while waiting for development from other players that I just didn’t see on the horizon.
Then…it happened. Toward the end of the season the Buckeyes received scoring punch from previously unlikely sources like Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross. This added outside threat relieved some of the load off Thomas and opened dribble drive lanes for Aaron Craft. The Buckeyes went from one scorer to four during the Big Ten Tournament and it paid off huge. The amazing thing is that the stifling defense never wavered while the scoring increased!
It may sound cliché, but the Buckeyes are getting hot at the right time. Many pick Louisville, but the Cardinals are already on a 14-game winning streak. To win the national title, they will have to have increased that streak to 20 in a row. I just think the odds are against that. The next hottest team is Gonzaga who has a 10 game winning streak requiring them to extend to sixteen in order to hoist the delicate crystal.
Ohio State, however, is only on an 8 game winning streak, while having been battle tested in the best conference in the land. They gained steam at the right time as they fought their way to the previously mentioned Big Ten Tournament championship.
Look closely at the West regional bracket. I don’t see a team as battle tested as the Buckeyes nor do I see a team that has faced the kind of defense that Ohio State will employ. I see the Buckeyes making it to the Final Four and possibly beyond.
If they were to lose, I think it would be to either Duke or Louisville in the semi-final game, or they could fall to a team like Kansas or Indiana in the championship game. Notice that three of these four teams have beaten the Buckeyes this year, but Ohio State is very capable of beating any of them as well since their newly found development.
That being said, the Final Four is always a crap shoot. The four remaining teams are almost always virtually even and it’s anyone’s title to lose. If the Buckeyes get that far (and I think they will), they’ll have just as much a shot at winning this thing as anyone else.
Patrick Murphy: When looking at the NCAA Tournament bracket, it is always crucial to look at matchups. Is there something one team does well that their opposition struggles stopping? Can weaknesses be exposed?
If there was one thing that hurt OSU this season it was a dominant big man. Duke’s Mason Plumlee and Indiana’s Cody Zeller had great days against the likes of Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel. Even Jeff Withey had a nice day for Kansas in Columbus.
The Buckeyes will likely be fine until they reach the Elite Eight and meet the Gonzaga Bulldogs. While this team is a No. 1 seed, it seems most people are not taking them seriously. They should.
Playing on the west coast, a lot of people did not see much of Gonzaga this year. This is a team that lost two games all season and finished atop the rankings at the end of the season. While they played in a perceived weak WCC, they have beaten several tournament teams and their two losses came to teams both in the Dance (Illinois and Butler).
The Bulldogs are a team that can score – at 76.8 points per game – but also defends at a high level, giving up less than 60 per outing. They are deep, with 10 players playing more than 10 minutes per game, and have a lot of tournament experience, having not missed the Big Dance in 15 years. While deep runs have not been frequent for the Zags, this team seems different and poised to make a push.
What makes the Bulldogs scary for the Scarlet and Gray is their ability inside. Junior Kelly Olynyk is a 7-footer who leads the team in points – 17.5 per game – and blocks, 1.2. They also have 6-8 Elias Harris who scores almost 15 points per game and collects almost 7.5 rebounds.
On top of this, both of these big men shoot over 76% from the free throw line, which could very well be an issue. Against other dominant men in the paint, Williams and Ravenel have had a tendency to foul while attempting to defend. Easy points at the line will hurt Ohio State.
These two will be a handful for Williams and Ravenel and Gonzaga will certainly look to exploit their advantage in the paint. This is why the tournament will end at the Elite Eight for the Buckeyes, as the Zags move on to the Final Four.