Last Updated: 2019-03-20
On Friday night, the final game to tip off at the Bank of Oklahoma Center, in Tulsa, will be the 6/11 game of the Midwest Region; featuring Chris Holtmann and his Ohio State Buckeyes catching 5.5 or 6 points vs. Steve Prohm and the Iowa State Cyclones.
Ohio State may be one of the biggest surprises among all the teams who earned at large bids to the NCAA Tournament – finishing the year with a 19-14 record, going 8-12 in the Big Ten, and featuring Cincinnati (32nd NCAA, KenPom) as their most impressive win of the year.
The Big Ten was rated the most difficult conference in College Basketball (KenPom) this year, however, and in playing the 18th most difficult schedule in the nation, the Buckeyes snuck their way into the Tournament field.
While starting an impressive 12-1 vs. the 245th most difficult non-conference schedule, Ohio State struggled when the competition picked up – especially down the stretch; and counting the Big Ten Tournament, The Bucks only won three out of their last 10 games.
They’ve seen the kind of talent that they’ll see on Iowa State, playing in the Big Ten, but in games vs. top 25 teams via KenPom, Ohio State went 0-9, losing seven of these by at least double digits. They will have their hands full Friday night, in Tulsa, with the Cyclones.
Iowa State, in Steve Prohm’s 4th season as Head Coach, finished the season 23-11, and placed 5th in the Big 12 regular season standings at 9-9; but made an unexpected run through the Big 12 Tournament, earning themselves a Championship, and a sixth seed in the Big Dance.
Iowa State started off the season strongly – going 10-2 vs. the 210th most difficult non-conference schedule but were mediocre against Big 12 competition. Down the stretch, the Cyclones were reeling, losing six out of their last eight games, and the lack of momentum they carried into the Big 12 Tournament is what made the run so unexpected and eye-opening.
Their, 68-64, win over Texas Tech (9th), in Lubbock, was the signature one on the year, and capping their run through the conference tournament with a 78-66 win over Kansas (21st) put an exclamation point on a solid year. Iowa State may be a team getting hot at the right time – with momentum and confidence at an all-season high.
The Iowa State offense (9th), lead by Senior SF Marial Shayok (9th 3P% Big 12) and Junior C Michael Jacobson (7th 2P% Big 12), will be the best unit on the floor in this matchup, and will use its height (63rd) to attack inside, where they have shot 55% on the year (27th).
The Ohio State defense (27th) can matchup in the paint (62nd), where they have held opponents to 47% inside, so they can contain what Iowa State does best, but the Buckeyes will still be at a slight disadvantage overall on the defensive side of the ball. The real edge for Iowa State may be on the defense.
The Buckeye offense (75th), lead by Sophomore Center, Caleb Wesson (13th Offensive Rebounding Rate, Big 10), features a slow-paced (262nd) inside-out attack, that will look to rely on either hitting threes, which they have only shot at a 34% rate (173rd) or getting the ball inside, where they have excelled at getting to the line more so than any other area on offense (87th).
The problem with this matchup for Ohio State, is that Iowa State’s defense (59th) is one of the best teams in the country at keeping teams off the free-throw line (3rd). This is where Ohio State has scored the highest percentage of their points relative to the rest of the country (19.8%, 117th), and therefore, the Cyclone defense may not be an ideal matchup for Ohio State.
The only category where Ohio State will find an advantage on offense is in rebounding, where Iowa State has struggled (258th), but Ohio State isn’t great on the glass by any stretch of the imagination (202nd).
Iowa State’s advantage on defense, especially being one that keeps teams off the line, is something to consider in this matchup; one thing that could potentially be unaccounted for in the number.
Pick: Ohio State 6 -110
While Iowa State may have some hidden advantages, especially on defense, I think that two points above what the season long metrics would predict is a bit high and recency bias provides a valid explanation for why this number might be inflated. The reverse line movement against 70% of the action on Iowa State is a clue that the sharp money agrees.
These teams aren’t that far off statistically, and while Ohio State isn’t great on offense, Iowa State isn’t spectacular on defense; and while Iowa State is very good on offense, Ohio State has the defense to matchup.
Ohio State has the feel of a team disrespected by all the talking heads and the betting public, that has the talent to keep it close. The Big Ten was arguably the best conference in College Basketball this season, and that fact is something very easy to overlook.
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