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Ohio State's Blueprint for Deep Run in 2014 NCAA Tournament

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2014

Ohio State's Blueprint for Deep Run in 2014 NCAA Tournament

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    After falling short against Michigan in the Big Ten tournament semifinals, the Ohio State Buckeyes were handed the No. 6 seed in the South Region.

    The Buckeyes will get a chance to renew a rivalry with No. 11 Dayton in the second-round matchup to be held in Buffalo.

    Thad Matta's team did not get an easy draw with No. 3 Syracuse ahead in the third round if they get past the Flyers. 

    For the Buckeyes to make a deep run in March, they must be firing on all cylinders. 

    Here is a look at a blueprint for the Buckeyes to extend their season in the field of 68. 

Let Aaron Craft Be Aaron Craft

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    Kiichiro Sato/Associated Press

    During his career at Ohio State, Aaron Craft has turned himself into one of the most polarizing figures in all of college basketball.

    Love him or hate him, you have to at least respect how Craft plays the game. 

    The senior guard gives the Buckeyes a strong defensive presence and a heartfelt leader on the court. 

    In order for the Buckeyes to be successful in the Big Dance, Craft must be unleashed on his opponents to wreak havoc and create transition opportunities. 

Correct Struggles on the Glass

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Entering the NCAA tournament, Ohio State ranks 216th in the nation in rebounding with 34.1 per game. 

    That is a total that needs to be improved if the Buckeyes want to see themselves in the second weekend of the tournament. 

    Big man Amir Williams averages just 5.8 rebounds per game, a total that is not good enough for the team lead that is held by LaQuinton Ross at 6.1.

    This is a problem that not just Williams has to solve, it is a team problem, but the good news is that it is a fixable one for Thad Matta's team. 

    The perfect sign of if it is fixed or not will be how the Buckeyes do on the glass against a Syracuse team that is long and athletic down low. 

LaQuinton Ross Must Take over on Offense

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Ross showed just how explosive he can be in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinal comeback against Nebraska. 

    The junior scored the majority of his 26 points in the second half as the Buckeyes began to wake up and earn a hard-fought victory. 

    Bad performances from Ross have been few and far between this season as he has only scored below double figures on seven occasions. 

    Ross has also been consistent down the stretch by scoring no less than 19 points in his final six games. 

    If Ross can get going early, the Buckeyes could be a dangerous team to defend. 

Get the Most out of Bench Players

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Just like every team in the NCAA tournament, the bench of Ohio State will be key to its success. 

    The Buckeyes bench players showed that they could step up into a bigger role throughout the Big Ten tournament, which gives the team an advantage. 

    Amadeo Della Valle was a pleasant surprise against Nebraska with 12 points and six rebounds in 21 minutes. 

    Shannon Scott also impressed off the pine against Michigan with 18 points and six assists in 32 minutes of play. 

    If those two, along with Marc Loving and Trey McDonald, can take their game to the next level, it should be smooth sailing for Ohio State. 

Play Hard for the Entire 40 Minutes

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    For the Buckeyes to advance to their fifth consecutive Sweet 16, they must be more consistent on the court. 

    On a few occasions this season, Ohio State has taken some minutes off and that lack of intensity has hurt the team. 

    The latest example of this came against Nebraska when the Buckeyes essentially fell asleep at the start of the second half before Ross' technical foul sparked a comeback. 

    Playing against a regional rival in Dayton on Thursday will test the resolve of the Buckeyes since the Flyers have been waiting to get a shot at Ohio State for a while. 

    If the Buckeyes loose focus for a few minutes on the court at the First Niagara Center, they could be in danger of an early exit.

     

     

NCAA Tournament Forecast

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Prediction: Loss in Third Round to No. 3 Syracuse. 

    The Buckeyes should get past Dayton in the second round easily, but Syracuse's zone may just be too much for them.

    Ross and Craft will be tasked with solving the always tricky Syracuse zone that usually negates strong guards who can shoot from beyond the arc and penetrate. 

    While an upset is possible in the third round, don't expect the Buckeyes to earn it because of their inconsistency throughout the entire game of late. 

     

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