After tearing through the toughest conference tournament in the 2013 college basketball landscape, Thad Matta‘s squad looks to make its first national title appearance since the Greg Oden days and it all starts in Dayton, Ohio. The No. 2 seed Ohio State Buckeyes (26-7) take on the No. 15 seed Iona Gaels (20-13) Friday at 7:15 p.m. ET for a spot in the third round on Sunday against the Notre Dame-Iowa State winner.
What to watch for:
Team-leading scorer Deshaun Thomas can be one of the most unstoppable offense forces in college basketball when he’s on. Recently that hasn’t been the case, however, with the junior forward hitting just 12-of-38 field goals in the semifinals and finals of the Big Ten tourney. Glass half-full says that means Ohio State can win multiple ways, in the juggernaut Big Ten for crying out loud. Glass half-empty says he better start draining shots if OSU can go deep. Either way, expect Big Ten Tournament Most Valuable Player Aaron Craft to effectively conduct the offense and harass the backcourt opposition on defense, having made his name already on the big stage in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Iona’s name on the national stage is currently most-associated with blowing a 25-point lead to BYU in the Final Four stage last year. They can make a new name for themselves only if guard Lamont “MoMo” Jones, who averaged 23 points per game this year, goes absolutely nuts.
Nothing against the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, but pitting the Big Ten tournament champs against the automatic bid from an undistinguished mid-major makes this call easy. Ohio State has shown recently that it can beat good teams even when Thomas isn’t shooting hot, so I’ll take Ohio State by double-digits.