The Ohio State Buckeyes and South Dakota State Jackrabbits played an entertaining 5-vs-12 NCAA Tournament matchup Thursday afternoon with the Buckeyes prevailing 81-73. The hero may have been senior Kam Williams who converted on a four-point play with the game tied at 70 with 1:36 remaining. Junior Keita Bates-Diop led Ohio State with 24 points and 12 rebounds. The Jackrabbits were paced by junior Mike Daum with 27 points on 5-10 shooting from three.
Let’s take a look at what we can learn from Ohio State’s first NCAA Tournament victory since 2015.
What We Learned
1. Ohio State Can Win With Offense In The NCAA Tournament
The formula for Ohio State’s success this season has been the Big Ten Player of the Year play of Bates-Diop and lockdown defense. The Buckeyes were a KenPom top 20 defense overall this season. Ohio State expected the replicate that type of game in today’s matchup
What they got was more of an offensive showdown with the Jackrabbits. Ohio State responded and leaned on its offensive playmaking from upperclassmen Bates-Diop, C.J. Jackson, and Williams. All had 20 points apiece and contributed with big shots down the stretch.
Now, this isn’t to disparage the Ohio State offense. They are rated no. 26 on KenPom and have shown an ability to light up the scoreboard, but overall, this is a team that digs in and wins with getting stops and grinding it out. It was somewhat unexpected to see Ohio State up-and-down the court keeping up with the Jackrabbits. It has to give the Buckeyes confidence to know that they can win NCAA Tournament games playing multiple ways.
2. Daum vs Bates-Diop Lived Up To The Hype
The talk before this afternoon’s game was the matchup between Mike Daum and Keita Bates-Diop. The talk was backed up with inspired play by both players.
Daum, who entered the game averaging 23.8 points per game and 10 rebounds, ended up leading all scorers with 27. Ohio State was able to limit him to just nine points in the second half, but the Nebraska-native played a heck of a game against a tough defensive team.
Bates-Diop was right there as well. The Big Ten Player of the Year dropped 24 and 12, 17 of which came in the first half.
Neither player was particularly efficient, both shot 20 or more shots. Still, it was exciting to see players of this caliber go at each other and delivering on this type of stage.
3. The Gonzaga Rematch Will Be Different
Now that the Buckeyes have gotten by the Jackrabbits, a rematch with Gonzaga awaits for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. The Zags destroyed Ohio State 86-59 in the PK80 tournament in Portland back in November. But just expecting a similar result in their game on Saturday would be foolish. True, the Buckeyes will need to solve Johnathan Williams, who scored 21 points in that game. The Buckeyes weren’t yet the Buckeyes from this year in that game. Defensively they were poor, giving up 44 first-half points, and Bates-Diop only passively took seven shots to score seven points. Expect the game to be much more competitive this time around, especially given Gonzaga’s struggles in their opening round matchup against UNC Greensboro.
Ohio State continued its strong turnaround season with a First Round victory over South Dakota State this afternoon. Before the season, this accomplishment looked improbable to even the most diehard Buckeye supporters. Still, the Buckeyes have done it and now look towards Gonzaga for some revenge on Saturday. It should be a great game with the Buckeyes playing with house money given all they have achieved this season.