Ohio State will be the underdog in its first game of the NCAA Tournament, as the 11th-seeded Buckeyes are set to play Iowa State – the No. 6 seed in the Midwest Region – in the first round of the tournament on Friday in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The Cyclones, led by fourth-year head coach Steve Prohm, enter the tournament with a 23-11 record. They went 9-9 in conference play, but won all three of their games in the Big 12 tournament to take their conference championship and earned an automatic bid in the Big Dance.
As Ohio State begins its preparations for Iowa State, we take a quick look at five things you should know about the Buckeyes’ first opponent.
Big 12 Tournament champs
Iowa State lost five of its final six regular season games to finish the regular season fifth in the Big 12 standings, but the Cyclones turned it around and are riding a hot streak heading into the NCAA Tournament.
The Cyclones won three straight games against three NCAA Tournament teams this week to claim the Big 12 Tournament title.
Thursday, Iowa State blasted Baylor 83-66, who is in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 9 seed. The Cyclones followed that win up with a 63-59 win over Big 12 co-champ Kansas State on Friday before beating Kansas in Saturday’s title game 78-66.
Both Kansas and Kansas State are in the NCAA Tournament field as No. 4 seeds.
Shayok leads the way
The Cyclones are led by one of the most versatile players and top scorers in the country in Marial Shayok.
The 6-foot-6 Virginia transfer guard leads the team with 18.6 points per game while also pulling down 4.9 rebounds. Shayok reached double-digit scoring figures in all but two games this season.
More than just his raw numbers, Shayok is efficient and accurate. He averages 49.7 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the arc and 88.6 percent from the free throw line.
Shayok was named the Big 12 Tournament MVP after averaging 18 points and three rebounds in Iowa State’s three wins.
Plenty of scoring options
While Shayok is the Cyclones’ star, they have had no shortage of productive players this season. In total, the Cyclones have four double-digit scorers this season; sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton has averaged 13.5 points per game, freshman guard Talen Horton-Tucker averages 12.1 points per game and redshirt junior forward Michael Jacobson averages 11.5 points per game.
Senior guard Nick Weiler-Babb adds 9.2 points per game, while freshman guard Tyrese Haliburton has scored 6.9 points per contest.
All six of those players have made at least 41 percent of their field goal attempts and 31 percent of their 3-point attempts this season. Jacobson leads them with a 58.2 field goal percentage (156-of-268), while also leading the team with six rebounds per game. Haliburton leads the team in 3-point shooting efficiency, making 44.1 percent of his 3-point shots (49-of-111).
Each of those six players have played at least 25 minutes per game for the Cyclones this year. Sophomore forward Cameron Lard (5.3 points per game, 12.2 minutes per game) is also among those who typically see playing time off the bench.
Top freshman drew Ohio State interest
Before he ultimately made the decision to commit to Iowa State in October 2017, Horton-Tucker was recruited by Ohio State along with some of the nation’s other top programs. Ranked as the No. 57 player in the class of 2018, Horton-Tucker included Ohio State in his top seven, along with Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Saint Louis and Xavier.
So far, the product of Chicago’s Simeon High School has certainly looked like a player who could have helped the Buckeyes this season, averaging five rebounds per game, 2.4 assists per game and 1.3 steals per game in addition to his 12.1 points per contest.
He’s one of only two top-100 recruits from his class on the Cyclones’ roster, along with Wigginton, who was the No. 35 overall prospect in the class of 2017.
Last time, things went well for the Buckeyes
This will not be the first time the Buckeyes meet Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State took on the Cyclones most recently in the Sweet 16 of the 2013 tournament, where the Buckeyes got the 78-75 win thanks to late-game heroics from Aaron Craft.
With the game tied at 75 with just seconds to go, Craft dribbled the clock out before hitting a game-clinching three with just half a second remaining on the clock.
Craft also took a crucial charge late in the second half to keep the Cyclones off the board, allowing the Buckeyes to tie the game down the stretch.
He finished the game with 18 points and six assists, but Deshaun Thomas led the way for the Buckeyes in the scoring column with 22 points. LaQuinton Ross also added 17, coming off the bench that game.