|#8 Ohio State 22-10, 10-8 Big Ten Roster | Schedule||March 20, 2009 9:40 PM ET - CBS —— UD Arena Dayton, OH||#9 Siena 26-7, 16-2 MAAC Roster | Schedule|
Well, it wasn't pretty at times but Ohio State finds themselves back in the big dance after a season of ups and downs. Thad Matta's squad was able to overcome key personnel losses in David Lighty and Anthony Crater in addition to absorbing a holiday heel stomping at the hands of Chuggy Bear, a combined four losses to conference powers Michigan State and Illinois and a nasty streak in February in which they lost four of five in ugly fashion before eventually closing the season winning four of five to earn an eight seed.
The eight seed might have been a bit of a slight but the team seems content with it considering they get to play about an hour down 70 in the bustling metropolis of Dayton. Personally, I'd rather been shipped out west if it meant a six seed - anything to avoid a #1 or #2 seed in a potential second round match up.
Of course, none of that matters if the Buckeyes can't handle everybody's sleeper (oxymoron?), the Siena Saints. Anything can happen this time of year - that's why they call it March Madness - but I like the way the Buckeyes match up against the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) champs.
|4||P.J. Hill||3.0||1.4||1.8||G||25||Ronald Moore||8.8||3.5||6.3|
|33||Jon Diebler||11.4||3.5||2.5||G||41||Kenny Hasbrouck||14.8||3.2||2.9|
|21||Evan Turner||17.1||7.0||3.8||F||23||Edwin Ubiles||14.6||4.8||2.2|
|44||William Buford||11.3||3.7||1.1||F||42||Alex Franklin||13.6||7.3||0.8|
|52||Dallas Lauderdale||4.6||3.6||0.2||C||22||Ryan Rossiter||10.0||7.8||1.3|
Siena is soaking up plenty of love from the experts based on the fact they return virtually everyone from last year's squad that finished 23-12 including a first round 21 point fisting of #4 seed Vanderbilt that saw the Saints place five in double figures including a 30 point effort from their star 6'3" guard Kenny Hasbrouck.
Hasbrouck returned this year to lead the team in scoring and capture league POY honors and he's got another strong supporting cast including three other double figure scorers and a true point guard in Ronald Moore (6.3 assists/game).
Limiting Hasbrouck will obviously be a huge key to victory and I think that's a very reasonable task considering he isn't exactly accurate (42% FG) and is more of a slasher than a spot up shooter. He has connected on 36% of his triple tries but the OSU zone could prove effective in limiting his penetration. If he does get in the lane, fouling might not be the worst option based on his 67% mark from the stripe.
Even if Hasbrouck is held in check, the top of the OSU zone will need to stay in front of Moore. The good news is if Moore does break down the defense, Siena shoots just 33% from deep as a team and they rank in the bottom 15% nationally hitting only 5.2 triples per contest. Hansbrouck and Clarence Jackson (33%) serve as the primary deep threats but unless it's another one of those nights where one guy shoots way above his season performance (ie. Bawinkel, Roth, et al), I like Ohio State's chances.
Inside, Siena sports just one player in the regular rotation over 6'7" in the form of 6'9", 227 lb. Ryan Rossiter. The sophomore has put up decent numbers but his build makes me think Mullens and Lauderdale should be able to hold their own in the paint if they decide to show up.
A few other Siena bits that might bode well for the Buckeyes include:
- Hasbrouck is coming off a painful calf cramp / injury suffered in a semi-final win over Fairfield and he still wasn't 100% in their 77-70 conference championship win over Niagara. He also shoots just 67% from the stripe and lost in the glory of his 30 point outburst against Vandy last year is he shot only 8/21. In two games against the second best team in the MAAC (Niagara), he shot a combined 10/41.
- In Siena's seven losses, Hasbrouck averaged only 9.7 points on 26% shooting versus a season clip of 14.8.
- While the Saints were perfect at home (17-0), they were just 9-7 away from the friendly confines.
- Only Rossiter (78%) shoots better than 66% from the stripe.
I'd like to think Ohio State will have somewhat of a home court advantage but considering only 550 tickets were given to the university, I'm not certain it will be as partisan as some might expect. Still, the short bus ride should be an advantage.
On the court, the Buckeye zone could be effective against a team that hasn't faced much zone this season in a conference that likes to get up and down the floor at a pace not consistently seen in the Big Ten. As discussed, the key might be containing Moore off the bounce forcing Siena to settle for outside shots.
Considering Siena would prefer to run, I'm inclined to believe Thad won't feature much press, maybe just some token pressure, to limit the slashing of Ubiles and Hasbrouck.
Offensively, it will be up to Hill-mons to handle ball pressure until Evan Turner seizes the point midway through the second half. With the knowledge Siena allows an average of 70 points per game including 90+ outbursts from the likes of Rider (90) and Niagara (100) and over 80 points to teams like Marist and Fairfield, it's possible Siena will extend their defense in hopes of accelerating the game's pace.
Ohio State's preferences should be to run when it's there but generally focus on driving the lane, creating opportunities in space for Turner, and not forget about the size advantage down low. I know Mullens has earned a spot in Matta's doghouse the last three games, averaging just 13 minutes a night compared to nearly 24 minutes in the nine games prior, but if he can stay on the floor he could have a big night.
The season long quest for Turner-support is another obvious key. Jon Diebler's "recent streak of consistency" has produced double figures in four of the last five games and he's also connected on 10 of his last 20 attempts from distance. It will be interesting to see whether or not the pasty one can get enough open looks against the athletic Saints defenders to be a difference maker.
If Diebs isn't cooking then Wil Buford needs to pick up the slack. He's riding a nice two game stretch of his own hitting 11/17 shots (65%) with 13 boards. As much as he needs to contribute, he's got to pay attention to shot selection. Nobody loves Buford more than I do but sometimes he pulls the trigger early in the clock and I've seen too many karma-induced long rebounds leading to scores at the other end to think it's a good idea Friday night. Regardless, my gut tells me Buford will be on his game and emerge as Turner's top sidekick against the athletic Saints.
At the risk of sounding like a homer, I don't see Ohio State losing this game. That's not a slight of Siena or an attempt to suffer selective amnesia forgetting how the Buckeyes like to play to the level of their competition thanks to a lack of killer instinct. It's just that Siena doesn't appear to have a huge advantage in many areas where OSU struggles. We know the zone can hemorrhage threes...Siena shoots only 33% from deep. We know the Buckeyes lack depth...All five Sienna starters log at least 29 minutes per game. The game is a stone's throw from Columbus while Sienna is only 9-7 away from home...And who is their answer for Turner?
I know, I know...It's the dance so all bets are off. That's what makes this the best event in all of sports. Still, I say Ohio State by eight, 75-67.
- Verne Lundquist and my man Bill Raftery will call the action.
- OSU is 37-19 lifetime in the dance with nine Final Fours.
- Matta has nine straight 20 win seasons. He and Mark Few (10) are the only coaches to record at least 20 wins in every season over their careers.