USC Upstate Spartans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes: A Preview

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USC Upstate Spartans vs. Ohio State Buckeyes: A Preview
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Thursday will bring us a classic David vs. Goliath showdown in men's college hoops when the USC Upstate Spartans travel from South Carolina to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Spartans are 6-4 and haven't begun play in the Atlantic-Sun Conference. They have dropped two consecutive games to UNC-Asheville and Dayton.

The Buckeyes are the second-ranked team in the country but are coming off of their first loss on Saturday, which was a road game against Kansas.

Where: Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

When: Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. EST

Watch: Big Ten Network

Listen: WBNS-AM 1460, WBNS-FM 97.1 in Columbus. Full list of Ohio State affiliates here

Will Ohio State cover the spread?

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Betting Line

Ohio State (-30.5), according to Sportsbook.

As big as that number is, Ohio State is the vastly superior team in this one. Look for them to win and cover here.

Key Injuries

USC Upstate has no injuries to report.

Ohio State F Jared Sullinger is doubtful.

What's at Stake

For USC Upstate, keeping this game close would mean a lot. But ultimately, playing in the Atlantic Sun Conference means that they need to plan on winning the their conference title to make the tournament. In effect, this game means very little to them.

Ohio State needs to win, and win big here. While it's still very early in the year, a close game here will hurt their seeding when the NCAA Tournament rolls around. 

What They're Saying

Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch noted how different the highly-ranked Buckeyes are without Jared Sullinger in the lineup:

Without Sullinger to occupy the attention of extra defenders, the Buckeyes have made fewer than 40 percent of their field-goal attempts the past two games, including a season-low 38.7 at Kansas. Their offensive rebounding totals have benefited, but their assist-to-turnover ratio has not; they had a minus ratio for the first time on Saturday.

He also noted that while Saturday's opponent South Carolina is the team from the bigger conference, a tougher game will likely come from USC Upstate:

Upstate (6-4) is an Atlantic Sun team from Spartanburg. The Spartans are in their first season as a full-fledged NCAA Division I member after four years of transitioning to one, but they’re 67 spots higher than their midstate cousin in the Rating Percentage Index.

USC Upstate Player to Watch

Forward Torrey Craig. He averages nearly 17 points and eight rebounds a game. In addition to that, he also brings in 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per contest.

Ohio State Player to Watch

How far will Ohio State go this year?

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While William Buford is the team's leading scorer (with the exception of Sullinger), the more important player is DeShaun Thomas. 

His output in the paint will be important for the Buckeyes' success.

Key Matchup

Craig against the Ohio State defense. This isn't a matter of Craig against one player. But when big upsets happen, it usually revolves around one player having a huge day for the underdog. Thad Matta and Ohio State will need to keep Craig in check. If they do, this will be a blowout.

Prediction: Ohio State 83, USC Upstate 47

Even without Sullinger, it's hard to see Ohio State not winning this game in a blowout. They have a lot of depth on the squad, which is why the Buckeyes are ranked No. 2 in the country. The outcome won't be in doubt here.

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