After outlasting the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Ohio State is now off to face a Gonzaga squad that took it behind the woodshed earlier in the season. Here’s your preview and prediction.
No. 5 Ohio State (25-8) vs. No. 4 Gonzaga (31-4) Game Preview
Broadcast, TV, Game Time
Date: Saturday, March 17
Game Time: 7:45 pm ET
Venue: Taco Bell Arena, Boise, Idaho
Well what do we have here? Lo and behold, despite the national media picking Ohio State to be run over by the Jackrabbits, it made the plays it needed to in order to advance to the second round.
But standing in the Buckeyes’ way is a perennial power that made Ohio State question its resolve in the PK80 Invitational earlier this year. In that one, Gonzaga beat OSU by 27 points. Ouch!
Ohio State Short Attention Span Game Plan
When On Offense
At first glance, this looks like a tough matchup for Ohio State. Okay, it does at second and third glance too, but the coaches have to devise a game plan to try and score the basketball on a stout defensive club.
So here’s the chinks in the armor of a team that has only lost four games all year (two in OT), and is second in the country in scoring margin.
The Zags don’t create a lot of steals, don’t block a ton of shots and aren’t a team that’s going to pressure you to death. That means Ohio State should be able to run its offense without worrying about consistent, all-out pressure. Maybe more than any other game this season, things need to go through the post first.
It doesn’t have to be Kaleb Wesson all the time either. Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate can also get down on the blocks and make room for good shots close into the basket. If they get a Zag sag down in the paint, then shooters should be open on the perimeter.
From there, it’s about making the shots.
When On Defense
So this looks daunting as well against a team that scores 84 points a game. But once you get in the NCAAs in a quick turnaround type of set, you don’t have time to get too cute and devise a plan your team doesn’t have time to practice and implement.
Here it’s simple — play the same man-to-man defense with the utmost effort you can for forty minutes. Help out on ball screens and close out on the three-point shooters, but not to the degree it leaves the defense in scramble mode. Gonzaga makes about nine threes a game, but shoots it just 37 percent from beyond the arc.
But … more than anything, once the shot goes up, every single player on defense has to locate their guy and get a body on them and block out. The Zags are a good rebounding team, and if you can limit the second looks, you’ve got a chance.
Key Player For Ohio State
Keita Bates-Diop, but for several reasons, not just scoring. It’s true that he only had seven points the first time around against Gonzaga, so that needs to change for Ohio State to have a chance, but he might also be tasked with guarding the Zags leading scorer and rebounder, Johnathan Williams.
Bates-Diop has to find a way to limit his effectiveness going to the rim, but more than anything, the 6-9 junior for Ohio State has to clean up on the boards and keep Williams off of them.
That is, if Holmann elects to put Bates-Diop on the Gonzaga senior. He might go with Jae’Sean Tate instead, but the same still applies for Bates-Diop on help defense, scoring and rebounding.
How It’ll All Go Down
I want to go with my heart here and say that Ohio State will find a way to win. I want to say that Bates-Diop will go off and the supporting cast will come to play. But this feels like a Lord of the Rings type of journey for the Buckeyes. I know OSU is a much better team than the 27-point beat-down earlier this year, but I don’t know that it’s almost 30 points better.
I also don’t think Gonzaga will have the same flat type of game it had in the first round against UNC Greensboro. This game will much closer than the PK90 Invitational, but the Zags are just too deep, too talented, and too balanced for Ohio State to pull it off.
Gonzaga 74, Ohio State 67
Gonzaga – 3.5