The second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament will open with a matchup between two in-state rivals. No.6 seed Ohio State is set to take on No.11 seed Dayton.
As the higher seed, and coming from a traditionally stronger conference, the Buckeyes are favored to advance. However, the contest could be one of the more competitive games in the field of 64. Many experts are picking Dayton to become the first upset of the tournament
While the Atlantic 10 isn’t a traditional power in college basketball, it produced some of the best teams this season. The conference earned six NCAA Tournament bids, falling short of only the Big 12, which got seven teams into the Big Dance. The Flyers went 10-6 in conference play, winning 10 of their last 12.
Ohio State got off to one of the hottest starts in the nation. The Buckeyes won their first 15 games, before losing to Michigan State. That began a three-week stretch that saw the Buckeyes lose five out of six games. The team managed to bounce back, picking up wins against Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan State, all of whom were ranked at the time of their matchups.
Dayton is led by Jordan Sibert, who transferred from Ohio State in 2012. He’s the team’s top scorer, averaging 12.5 points per game. The junior guard is a deadly three-point shooter, making 43.9 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. He’ll look to neutralize the Buckeyes’ greatest strength. Ohio State ranks third in the country, allowing opponents to shoot just 29.4 percent from three-point range.
The Buckeyes have a wealth of experience, and don’t rely on first or second-year players. Their top six scorers, led by LaQuinton Ross at 15.4 points per game, are juniors or seniors. Fourth-year player Aaron Craft will be making his final appearance in March Madness. The point guard has been named the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year twice in the last three seasons.
While the two teams have not faced each other in the 2013-2014 season, the head coaches know each other very well. Dayton’s Archie Miller coached under Thad Matta, as an assistant with the Buckeyes. Reaching the NCAA Tournament as a head coach is a new experience for Miller, since Dayton has not made the field in five years. Last season, Ohio State was knocked out in the Elite Eight, marking their fourth straight appearance to, at least, the Sweet Sixteen.
The two teams have been placed in the South Region, where top-ranked Florida is the No.1 seed. The winner will go on to play the team that comes out on top in the No.3 Syracuse vs. No.14 Western Michigan matchup.
Player To Watch: Jordan Sibert
Time: 12:15 p.m. Thursday
Place: First Niagara Center, Buffalo
TV Channel: CBS
Online Stream: March Madness Live
Point Spread: Ohio State by six
Prediction: Ohio State over Dayton, 68-66