Biggest Challenges Ohio State Faces in NCAA Tourney Matchup vs. Dayton
Ohio State faces a nightmarish challenge from Dayton in their much-anticipated matchup in the NCAA tournament.
The Buckeyes finished fifth in the Big Ten this year, and while they may not have the offensive firepower of some of the top teams in the tournament, they are known for their dominance on defense and their ability to shut opponents down with frequency.
However, Dayton will be among the most motivated lower seeds in the tournament. The Flyers get a chance to play an in-state power opponent, one that they have wanted to play for several years. They finally get their opportunity to confront the Buckeyes, and it's in the NCAA tournament.
Here are the biggest challenges Ohio State faces in its NCAA matchup with Dayton.
The Buckeyes go into the NCAA tournament with a legitimate concern about their scoring. Do they have enough of it? Where will it come from when the game is on the line?
Ohio State is averaging 69.8 points per game this season, a figure that ranks 204th in Division I. That's a problem for a team that is preparing for a long run in the tournament.
Forward LaQuinton Ross is its go-to offensive player, and he is averaging 15.4 PPG. He is the best option in the Ohio State offense, and he will often get plenty of help from Lenzelle Smith Jr., who is averaging 11.1 points per game.
However, after those top-two scorers, the Buckeyes could have trouble generating enough production against Dayton.
The Buckeyes are in real trouble when they try to rely on their three-point shooting. This has been a troublesome area all season, as they make 32.6 percent of their shots from beyond the arc. That ranks 238th in the nation.
The biggest problem in three-point shooting came when Deshaun Thomas left in the offseason and decided to play professional basketball in Paris. That meant Ross had to take over the bulk of the offense. Opponents can focus on Ross and concentrate their defensive effort against him, and that hamstrings the Ohio State offense.
The Dayton Flyers have a tradition of basketball success, but they have not been able to face their in-state rivals on a regular basis.
They have been hungering for a chance to play the Buckeyes for years. Nobody has wanted to compete against them more than leading scorer Jordan Sibert, who transferred to Dayton from Ohio State.
Sibert is averaging 12.5 PPG from his guard position, and he is in the dream scenario of getting a chance to lead his current team against the school he left.
Ohio State has a strong defensive team, but how are the Buckeyes going to contain this motivated former teammate?
Dayton's Pressure Offense
When Dayton is at its best, it likes to push the ball up the court and run whenever possible. Sibert is its leading scorer, and he is followed closely by Devin Oliver, who is averaging 12.1 PPG.
While neither player is a dominant scorer, the Flyers like to spread the ball around and rely on multiple players to score. This has given them a 113.5 offensive efficiency rating, a figure that ranks 31st in the nation, according to Matt Martucci of ESPN (subscription required). When the Flyers are in the transition game, they are not afraid to take the three-pointer.
This could play into the Buckeyes' hands, since team defense is their strength. However, if the Buckeyes don't get off to a sharp start, they could find themselves trailing and having to play come-from-behind basketball.
Ohio State can play defense, and the Buckeyes have excelled in that area all year.
The Buckeyes allow 59.8 PPG, a figure that ranks 12th nationally. One of the reasons for that has been the way head coach Thad Matta deploys his players. He is one of the best X-and-O strategists in the game, and he is clearly going to be under pressure against Dayton and throughout the tournament to find the matchups that benefit his team the most.
He has very little margin of error since the Buckeyes struggle so much on the offensive end. He should be ready for a top effort once again, but any slip-up or incorrect analysis of his opponent could lead to problems for the Buckeyes in this tough opening-round matchup.
Stats via NCAA.com unless otherwise noted.