Armed with one of the Big Ten’s best defenses and an eight-game winning streak, the Ohio State Buckeyes chase their 12th Final Four appearance as they take on Iona Friday night at UD Arena in Dayton.
The No. 2 seed Buckeyes followed up their second place finish in the Big Ten regular season with a blistering tournament run, and downed Wisconsin 50-43 in the championship game.
Junior Deshaun Thomas scored a game-high 17 points with seven rebounds, but Ohio State struggled from 3-point range, going 1-for-16. The Buckeyes were third in 3-point percentage in the conference this season.
Star defensive guard Aaron Craft totaled nine points and six rebounds, and it was the second game all season he failed to record a steal. Over the last five games, Craft is shooting 61.3 percent from the floor.
Craft and the Buckeyes defense may have their hands full against the Gaels and their high-octane offense.
Iona was second in the nation with 80.7 points per game, and have an efficient propensity to move the ball, averaging 15.5 assists.
The No. 15 Gaels are also riding a five-game winning streak after eking out a 60-57 victory over Manhattan in the MAAC tournament title game.
Junior guard Tre Bowman led all scorers with 20 points, while Lamont Jones misfired, shooting 4-for-13 for 14 points. Jones was averaging a MAAC-best 23 points per contest.
Iona also forced 19 Manhattan turnovers, earning it’s tenth tournament bid. The Gaels are 1-9 all-time in tournament play, and have never made it past the first weekend.
The game tips-off at 7:15 p.m. Eastern and will be broadcast by CBS, or watch a free live online stream at the NCAA March Madness official site here.
Betting Odds: Ohio State is favored by 14.5 points.
Over/Under: 145 points
Prediction: Craft will have to drape Jones throughout the game. Iona will have a tough time matching up against Thomas, who should have a monster game. The Buckeyes will advance in a blowout.
Predicted Score: Ohio State 75, Iona 52