The Ohio State Buckeyes will continue their push for the Final Four on Sunday against what will be the very game Iowa State Cyclones.
OSU easily dispatched Iona in the round of 64. The Gaels came in with the highest-scoring offense in the country. They were killed, though, when Ohio State demonstrated that it could easily keep up. The Buckeyes handled the tempo well, and it came down to who had more talent. Ohio State clearly had the advantage there.
The Cyclones play a very similar style and ran Notre Dame out of the gym. The Fighting Irish couldn't keep up and lost, 76-58, as a result. Iowa State had a strong offensive performance across the board, as seven players had six or more points.
With the Buckeyes' good defense, this game is a very nice clash of styles and should make for great viewing. Here's everything you need to know for this third-round matchup.
When: Sunday, March 24, at 12:15 p.m.
Where: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio
Live Stream: March Madness Live
Betting Line: Ohio State -7 (courtesy of Sportsbook.ag)
Ohio State injuries: None (via USA Today)
Iowa State injuries: None (via USA Today)
What's at Stake?
A place in the Sweet 16 is on the line.
For Ohio State, that's at least the minimum expectation. The Buckeyes have made it at least that far for the last three seasons, including a Final Four run last year. Thad Matta has been a proven winner in the tournament, first with the Xavier Musketeers and now with the Buckeyes.
As the No. 2 seed, Ohio State should quite rightfully be thinking Final Four at this point.
It's a different situation for the Cyclones. Iowa State hasn't made the Sweet 16 since the days of Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley. The Cyclones really played well against the Fighting Irish, so fans should be getting their hopes slightly up for this one.
Plus, what looked to be a very dangerous New Mexico Lobos squad is out of the way, thus easing the path somewhat to the Elite Eight for whichever team wins.
Players to Watch
Ohio State: Deshaun Thomas, F
Deshaun Thomas has been one of the most consistent scorers on an Ohio State team that has sometimes had a difficult time finding enough offense. At 19.6 points a game, he's by far OSU's top scorer.
Even when he struggles, Thomas still manages to put in a good showing. He's scored in double figures every game this season.
Thomas is shooting 44.2 percent this year, so it's not as if his points have come at the expense of the team. Against the Gaels, Thomas went for 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
It was a strong performance from a star player. The NCAA tournament is all about watching star players make names for themselves. Thomas could very well do that with another big game on Sunday.
Iowa State: Melvin Ejim, F
Melvin Ejim has made a big step this year. His numbers are up almost across the board from where they were in 2011-12.
Only 6'6", Ejim has been a very good rebounder this year, averaging 9.3 a game—he gets in good position to grab boards. The Buckeyes only rank 71st in total rebounds, so the opportunity is there for Ejim to pull down plenty of rebounds.
Against the Fighting Irish, Ejim played well. He had 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Ejim is also a bit of threat from three-point range. He isn't a dead-eye shooter, but he's got enough skill to keep opposing teams honest.
Key Matchup: Ohio State's Aaron Craft vs. Iowa State's Korie Lucious
Korie Lucious should be a name very familiar to both Ohio State players and fans. He was previously a member of the Michigan State Spartans before being dismissed from the team. Now he's with the Cyclones and performing very well.
Watching the battle between him and Aaron Craft will be a lot of fun.
Craft doesn't have to impact the game with his scoring. He had only four points against the Gaels but added seven assists and six steals. Craft is one of the best floor generals in the country. It's going to be up to Lucious to ensure that Craft doesn't find that comfort zone and dictate the tempo of the game.
Lucious himself isn't much of a scorer either. He's also been prone to turnovers, giving it up 3.2 times a game. Lucious just needs to pick his spots and play careful basketball.
It's hard envisioning Iowa State having enough to get past the Buckeyes. The Cyclones score a ton of points, but they could be in for a rude awakening against a stout Ohio State team that's giving up only 58.3 points a game.
Who advances to the Sweet 16?
Iowa State's also giving up an average of 70.8 points per game, so the Buckeyes are catching a major break there. A team that's struggled offensively is going up against one of the worst defensive teams in the country.
Thomas will take this game over. He could very easily go for 20-plus this game. Craft should also have a much better offensive game than he did against Iona because he'll be asked to do a little more.
The Buckeyes did a good job when the game opened up against Iona. Although Iowa State is a better team, the result should be the same for OSU. The Cyclones will hang tough for most of the game, but the quality of Ohio State will shine through as the game goes on.
Ohio State 84, Iowa State 73
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