6. Ohio State Buckeyes (25-8, 10-8 Big Ten)-The Buckeyes have been less than impressive after a 15-0 start to the season that included an incredible comeback win over Notre Dame.
The Bucks are led by senior point guard Aaron Craft (9.6 ppg, 4.7 apg, 2.5 spg), who sets the tone on defense and can be described as the Tyler Hansbrough of Big Ten point guards. He’s not the most athletically gifted point guard you’ll see–not by a long shot–but he’s gritty and knows how to win. He was a major reason the Buckeyes came back from 18 down to beat Nebraska in the Big Ten quarters.
LaQuinton Ross is a physically gifted player with great size (6-8) and guard skills. He’s a terrific three-point shooter (37.8%) and can create his own shot and get to the basket. He’s a potential NBA prospect. Lenzelle Smith Jr. (11.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) seems like he’s been in Columbus forever, and adds veteran leadership.
The Bucks aren’t ever going to be confused for an offensive juggernaut. They rank 208th in points per game and in the 200’s in several offensive categories.
12th Points Allowed (59.8)
38th Steals per Game (7.6)
208th Points per Game (69.8)
211th Rebounds per Game (34.2)
147th Field Goal Percentage (.448)
11. Dayton Flyers (23-10, 10-6 Atlantic 10)-Dayton made plenty of noise in the early part of the season, knocking off Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational and falling to Baylor by one. The Flyers seemed to have played their way off of the bubble after losing four straight in January, but rebounded to finish strong, winning 10 of 12 and only losing twice to St. Joe’s.
The selection committee clearly respected the Atlantic 10 this season, as six teams crashed the Big Dance. Dayton wasn’t a great A-10 team, but made it safely into the round of 64.
Dayton’s leading scorer, guard Jordan Sibert spent two years rotting away on the Ohio State bench before transferring to Dayton. How’s that for motivation? You know he’ll be itching to come up big against his former teammates.
Forwards Devin Oliver (12.1 ppg) and Dyshawn Pierre (11.1 ppg) are also capable scorers and could have big games. Dayton has the talent and confidence to knock off in-state rival Ohio State in round 1. You know they’ll be motivated, because of Sibert, and many of his teammates, who ended up with the Flyers because they were passed up by schools like Ohio State. This could easily be a Round of 64 upset.
60th Field Goal Percentage (.466)
113th Points Allowed (67.6)
PREDICTION: Ohio State