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.
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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