So much of a college basketball team’s success in March depends on guard play. Teams need to be able to shoot well over a six-game stretch in order to win it all, and that usually begins and ends in the backcourt.
For the Buckeyes, OSU head coach Chris Holtmann has some terrific front court players, but Ohio State is not immune to the need for stellar guard play. South Dakota State won’t be caught off guard by what forwards Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate can do. They may not be able to stop either player, but they will at least come into the contest with a game plan.
Where that game plan can come to a crashing halt, however, is with oustanding play from OSU’s guards.
“The guys that are always at the top of the scouting report for us are Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate,” Holtmann said. “I think where we had played well and had success our guards have played well for us, C.J. Jackson, Kam Williams, Andrew Dakich, those guys have played well for us. They’re going to need to — listen, I think we’re playing the best team I’ve played in the opening round as a coach. So we’re going to need a lot of good stuff from a lot of guys.”
What a Win Would Mean
This is the third-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament for South Dakota State, and the fifth trip in school history. Unfortunately for the Jackrabbits, they have yet to come away with a win.
For several players — like Summit League Player of the Year Mike Daum — simply getting to the tournament is no longer good enough. It used to be seen as a capper to a great season. Now they see it as the next step for something greater.
So what would it mean to finally get an NCAA Tournament victory?
“It would mean a tremendous amount,” Daum said. “Not just for me, for my teammates, for the coaching staff and for the school. For us it seems like years in the past if you win your conference tournament you get that automatic bid and that’s considered a good season. But we’re holding ourselves more accountable, because we want to be able to come to NCAA March Madness and make some noise and get a win.”
Take Care At All Times
South Dakota State turns the ball over just 10 times per game, which then allows them to have more completed possessions, which oftentimes ends up in a made three-point basket.
The Buckeyes began playing better this season when they took better care of the ball. When they didn’t, they weren’t nearly as effective. That same approach has aided the Jackrabbits this year.
“For myself, I understand that offensively we need to be as great as possible,” said guard Tevin King. “You can’t turn the ball over. We’ve got great scorers, that just getting the ball in their hands and getting at least a shot attempt is the best thing for this team.”
King has turned the ball over just five times in the last four games, and backup point guard Brandon Key — who leads the team in assists at 3.3 per game — has just seven turnovers over the last nine games.
Even forward Mike Daum set about being more careful with the basketball this season.
“For me last year I feel like turnovers were something that every game I would have two or three of, and I tried to cut those out,” said Daum. “To try to get those guys open shots is a big deal for us.”
For his efforts, Daum is down to 1.8 turnovers per game against non-conference opponents.
Have You Got What It Takes
When you step back and look at what the Ohio State Buckeyes were able to accomplish this season compared to their expectations, it is very impressive.
When you look at the season in stages, however, sometimes the bad can overshadow the good.
Some of that is happening now because the Buckeyes are currently in a five-game stretch where they have lost three times.
Make no mistake, however, Ohio State is coming into this tournament with a purpose, as well as an understanding of what it takes to get the job done. The only question now is if they’re good enough to do it.
“This is another opportunity to get the sour taste out of our mouth,” said forward Jae’Sean Tate. “Throughout the season we’ve shown what it takes to win, and we’ve shown what happens when we don’t do those things — we lose. So I think just our ability to focus on what got us to be No. 2 in the Big Ten and focus on that and just try to pay attention to the coaching and the scouting and that’s going to be the best thing we can do in this matchup against a very good team.
“We fell off toward the end, but we still had a great Big Ten season. We’re capable of winning big games.”