The Buckeyes are back in the Big Dance, but face a tough matchup.
Ohio State has made its second straight NCAA Tournament, and Chris Holtmann has taken his team back to March Madness despite losing four impact players from a season ago.
The Buckeyes don't have an easy first-round matchup this time, however, due to their late-season struggles dooming them to a No. 11 seed.
While it's a week year overall for college basketball, the Buckeyes have a tough draw. Ohio State will take on Iowa State, led by coach Steve Prohm, in his fourth season at the school. The Cyclones finished the season 23-11, and are coming in hot, having won their last three games to win the Big 12 tournament championship.
Iowa State is led by three athletic guards: Virginia transfer and leading scorer Marial Shayok (18.6 ppg), sophomore Lindell Wigginton (13.5 ppg) and freshman Talen Horton-Tucker (12.1 ppg).
The Cyclones are very athletic and active, and the Buckeyes are going to have to do a few things well to give themselves a chance.
Someone Has to Step Up on Offense
In all of Ohio State's big wins, a second player has stepped up beyond Kaleb Wesson. When the Buckeyes defeated Creighton early in the season, Keyshawn Woods had 19 points. In the rout over Iowa, Justin Ahrens dropped 29. And of course, in the Big Ten Tournament, it was Woods again.
This has to be the case against Iowa State. You cannot beat a good team by having just one player scoring. Some secondary option will have to step up and be big for this team.
Whether it's Woods or Ahrens again, a new face such as one of the two freshman guards (Duane Washington and Luther Muhammad) or possibly Musa Jallow or Kyle Young, someone that isn't a Wesson is going to need to have a big game for Ohio State to have a chance.
No Dumb Fouls (ahem, Kaleb Wesson)
It sounds pretty simple: don't commit dumb fouls. But in several key games the Buckeyes have lost, Kaleb Wesson has committed a foul that simply was unnecessary or egregious and should not have done it.
Now, Wesson is the key to this basketball team. He is the best player on this basketball team. He is one of the best players in the Big Ten. However, that does not excuse him from making stupid fouls that cost his team significantly in big moments.
Wesson's presence on the floor is crucial for Ohio State if they want to make any sort of run whatsoever in the NCAA Tournament, and he must do his part in the foul department to stay on the court.
Match Up Well
Jallow is one of Ohio State's most athletic players. He will be tasked with guarding one of Iowa State's talented guards. It is well-known that Jallow is not an elite scorer. But he must do his part for the Buckeyes.
It isn't necessarily terrible if Jallow and Muhammad don't fill up the points column, although it would of course be nice, but the Buckeyes need their guards to play solid defense on Iowa State's athletes.
If the Buckeyes can manage to do that, they have a solid chance to pull the upset.