Have you filled out your brackets and entered tBBC’s annual bracket challenge? If not, what are you waiting on? Get on it.
We head West for the second of our four region previews in preparation for the greatest weekend in sports. After our first preview of the loaded Midwest region, the West is a bit less exciting as on paper it is probably the easiest of the four regions, challenged only by the East.
Favorite – Arizona had to be thrilled about their draw in this one. Not only is the West the easiest of the regions, the Wildcats will also get to avoid a lot of travel as they never play more than 471 miles from their campus and fans will have easy access to direct flights that last no more than an hour and a half for the first two weekends; no other team’s fans will have it that easy. Travel will be even easier for the team as getting out of the first weekend means just a fairly short drive up the coast from San Diego to Los Angeles.
It’s not just the short travel and large fan support that the Wildcats will get that makes them the favorite in the region; Arizona put together an impressive season, finishing in second place in the RPI with a 30-4 record while playing the nation’s fourth hardest schedule. The Wildcats won their first 21 games of the season in a stretch that included wins over San Diego State (4 seed in the West), Duke (3 seed in the Midwest), Michigan (2 seed in the Midwest), and UCLA (4 seed in the South), among others. The loss of Brandon Ashley to injury hurt the Wildcats, they’ve gone 9-4 without him, but this team still has offensive weapons. The key to Arizona’s success has been a stifling defense that has limited opponents to 58.1 points per game on 38% shooting; this defense doesn’t seem to have lost a beat following Ashley’s injury.
The Buckeyes took on their next opponent in the Gotham Classic this evening, the surprisingly dangerous North Dakota State Bison. Coming off a win at Notre Dame, the Bison were hoping to pick up another high quality win against the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes, however, weren’t having any of that, picking up a dominating 79-62 win. Four Buckeyes ended up in double figures: LaQuinton Ross with 18, Lenzelle Smith Jr. with 18, and Sam Thompson and Marc Loving off the bench with 12 a piece. NDSU responded with 21 from Taylor Braun, 12 from Marshall Bjorklund, and 10 from Lawrence Alexander.
The game began with both sides trying to show off their long range sniping game. Lenzelle Smith starting things off by sinking the first three of the game, eventually following it up with a second after a third by Laquinton Ross. NDSU struggled to maintain control of the rock inside the paint, committing several costly traveling fouls. They then responded by shooting from deep, picking up a single triple to get on the board three minutes after the start of the game.
The OSU shooting started from range due to the NDSU defensive strategy. The Bison used a 2-3 zone, or an usual looking box-and-1, to try to keep the Buckeyes from utilizing Amir Williams inside. After getting killed from long range through the first four minutes, they quickly shifted to a help-side man defense look. The change allowed them to continue to suppress Amir Williams inside, but kept OSU from getting the easy open outside looks.
The pace began to pick up as the Buckeyes defense started to kick up the intensity. For a short period, OSU looked like they were going to run away with the game, scoring another Slam Thompson entry pass ally-oop, and a sweet Lenzelle Smith fast break layup assisted by Aaron Craft. However, NDSU rose to the challenge and sank a three to cut the lead to five. The Bison cranked up their own defensive energy to counter the Buckeyes and began to force a few turnovers from the typically stingy OSU guards.
Thad Matta chose to operate with a linechange coming out of the after-12 timeout. Running with Scott, Della Valle, Thompson, Loving, and McDonald, the Buckeyes continued to maintain the intensity, but struggled to find scoring. Defense with that lineup seemed to struggle a little as well, but was by no mean poor. During the run, NDSU attempted to regain control of the pace of the game, a task in which they eventually succeeded. Rather than rushing their offense, they paced themselves and took what was available.
The Bison of NDSU are in Columbus to take on the Buckeyes on the hardwood this evening. This is a continuation of the Gotham Classic that began with the game against Bryant.
The game is set to tip at 8:15 PM Eastern on the Big Ten Network. We’ll start the festivities here at around 7:45 PM.
The #3 Ohio State Buckeyes (9-0) continue action in the Gotham Classic on Saturday evening by hosting the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Bison, winners 73-69 over Notre Dame on Wednesday. North Dakota State enters Saturday’s contest with a record of 7-3 and sporting a 5 game winning streak. After this game, Ohio State will host Delaware on December 18th, then go to NYC to face Notre Dame for an evening game on Saturday, December 21st.
Here’s their Profile -
School: North Dakota State University
Location: Fargo, ND
Student Population: 12,332
School Type: Public, coed
Conference: Summit League
Arena: Chace Bison Sports Arena
Head Coach: Saul Phillips
First, a couple of quick announcements….
-No third video this week. I had to make a choice last night on what to do with my evening. I chose playing board games with my daughter (and my friend Janessa), and decided that two videos was enough for the week.
-I actually got a full night’s sleep last night…first time that’s happened on the night before a game in over a year.
-Yet another team from Michigan choked on the big game. Everyone expected the Tigers to roll over the Cardinals. Instead, they just rolled over. Just like last year’s Pistons. And the Pistons the year before that. And the Wolverines in their Bowl game in 2005. And the Wolverines in their Bowl game in 2004. And the Wolverines in their Bowl game in 2003. And the Wolverines against Ohio State in 2005. And the Wolverines against Ohio State in 2004.
By now, everybody knows what to expect in today’s Homecoming game against Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are NOT a good team, and the Buckeyes should dominate again today. I prefer to take a look deeper into teams, rather just just quote how many yards they average and leave it at that. Here’s a few facts that will leave you smiling before the Bucks take the field.
-Minnesota has three wins on the year. One is against a team ranked in the Bottom 10 (0-8 Temple). One is against a Division 1-AA school (ND State, a one-point victory). One is against Kent State.
-In Big Ten play, Minnesota has allowed 32.75 points per game.
-They are ranked #96 in the NCAA in rush defense (Ball State actually has a better run defense at #94)
-They are tied for #86 in the NCAA against the pass. They are tied with Indiana….the team that allowed Troy Smith to throw for 4 TDs in a half last week.
Our offense, provided JT has prepared them properly (I know, I know) will have no trouble at all. The Buckeyes could tag another 40 on the board if they play well.
The defense will need to buckle down. Minnesota has already played 4 of the top 5 Big Ten teams, and they have averaged over 18 points per game. Today they meet the Big Ten’s best team, and we MUST beat them by more than Michigan did.
If we can beat Minny more impressively than Michigan did, then we will have won the “battle of comparisons” over the Blue in all four games. The Blue didn’t put Iowa away until 4 minutes remained. Penn State had the ball, down by 7 with less than 2 minutes to play. And Michigan State, while the respective scores were clearly in favor of Ohio State, take a look at yardage gained….OSU/MSU, 421-198….Michigan/MSU, 351-312.
Go make it four-for-four, Buckeyes.
Ohio State 42