Ohio State team capsule
Ohio State (27-7)
COACH: Thad Matta, six years at Ohio State, four years in NCAA Tournament
HOW THEY GOT IN: Automatic bid (Big Ten)
MATCHUP BREAKDOWN: Ohio State proved throughout the Big Ten tournament that it can put together a withering scoring run against the nation’s best defenses. UC Santa Barbara, the Big West champs, proved it boasts a solid defense, too. The Gauchos limit their opponents to 41 percent shooting overall and just 30 percent from 3-point range. However, UCSB didn’t fare well in its two encounters with NCAA Tournament teams. Cal, for example, smacked the Gauchos 87-66 on Dec. 29. On the other hand, the Buckeyes usually enjoy a quickness advantage because their "4" man, 6-foot-5 David Lighty, usually has to be chased around by a bigger guy. UCSB’s forwards are 6-5, too, so they might be able to stick with Lighty and shooter Jon Diebler (104 3-pointers).
GO-TO GUYS: Considering junior G Evan Turner finished the regular season as the Big Ten’s leading scorer (19.5 points per game) and rebounder (9.4 rebounds per game), as well as the league’s second-best passer (5.8 assists per game) and pilferer (1.8 steals per game), the conference’s Player of the Year just might be the defining factor in every game. Junior wing Jon Diebler led the Big Ten in 3-pointers (93) and has been known to hit seven bombs in a game. Junior David Lighty (12.4 points per game) is a nightmare for a conventional power forward to defend, as he can shoot 3s and attack the rim.
THEY’LL KEEP WINNING IF: Turner doesn’t reinjure his back trying to throw down a dunk. The Buckeyes went 21-4 with him but just 3-3 without him in the regular season. Entering the Big Ten tourney, Ohio State has gone 24-2 when it shoots a higher percentage than its opponent, 15-2 when it outrebounds its opponent and 18-1 when it cracked the 70-point barrier. The exception to the last rule came on Nov. 19 vs. North Carolina.
STRENGTHS: Ohio State’s starting five might be the finest in the field. Junior C Dallas Lauderdale is a shot-blocking, pick-setting menace in the middle who allows Turner, Buford, Diebler and Lighty to be their explosive selves all over the court. They like shooting 3-pointers to spread the defense, which then allows them to attack the gaps for drives and pull-up jumpers. Turner, in particular, has the strength and the handle to get wherever he wants to go. And, since every starter is at least 6-5, the Buckeyes have the length to frustrate opposing offenses. They’ll switch between a man-to-man and a 1-3-1 trap.
WEAKNESSES: Ohio State has little to no depth. Kyle Madsen (2.4 points per game) backs up Lauderdale in the post and senior Jeremie Simmons (5.1 points per game) helps a little on the perimeter, but Simmons has struggled to recover from nerve damage near his eye. The Buckeyes also need to replace two starters late in games to keep them off the free-throw line: Lauderdale (44 percent) and Lighty (63 percent).