#5 Ohio State v.s. #12 South Dakota State
West Region – Boise, ID
Thursday (3/15) 4:00p EST, TNT
Since 1985, only four times has a 12-seed failed to upset a 5-seed in the first round of the tournament. That means over this 32 year span, at least one 5-seed gets upset 87% of the time… that is a really big number to think of for an upset! According to the ESPN Tournament Challenge metrics, South Dakota State is the second-favorite 12-seed to pull off an upset in about 23% of brackets submitted. Led by the Summit Player of the Year and one of the most underrated players in the country, Mike Daum, the Jackrabbits are definitely one of the trendy upset picks heading into the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, but they go up against a really surprisingly good Buckeyes squad. Coach Chris Holtmann, Big Ten Coach of the Year, has turned this Buckeyes program around in his first year, led by the Big Ten Player of the Year, Keita Bates-Diop. This is going to be one of the most intriguing matchups of the first weekend and could be a bracket-buster for a lot of people around the country!
Ohio State Buckeyes (24-8) (15-3) – Big Ten
After what was expected to be a rebuild season for the Buckeyes, they find themselves in the NCAA Tournament as a 5-seed, their highest seeding since the 2013 NCAA Tournament when they were a 2-seed. Led by junior forward and Big Ten Player of the Year, Keita Bates-Diop (19.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 48.4 FG%), Ohio State finished 1 game behind Michigan State for a share of the Conference Regular Season Title, and beat the two best teams in their conference this season in Michigan State and Purdue. One downside for the Buckeyes heading into this match-up against South Dakota State though is that they are 2-3 in their last 5 games and have not played a game on the court since March 2nd when they got bounced out of the Big Ten Tournament after losing to Penn State for the third time this season. The Buckeyes will have their hands full against the Jackrabbits!
Player to Watch: Jae’Sean Tate (12.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 55.6 FG%, 27.3 3P%)
You would expect Keita Bates-Diop to be the player that everyone will have their eyes on in this game, but Jae’Sean Tate will be very important for the Buckeyes because South Dakota State will do everything they can to get the ball out of Bates-Diop’s hands. The 6’4” Tate plays well above his height and is a threat when backing down his defenders. Tate is also a threat on the glass, as he has posted 4 double-doubles this season and attacks the offensive glass they most. Jae’Sean Tate is a very streaky shooter that makes most of his shots in the paint, but has the ability to stretch the floor. He does not take too many three-point shots, but has the ability to knock them down. With Bates-Diop drawing a lot of attention in this game, especially in the low post, expect to see Tate cutting to the basket a lot and getting the ball in the lane. He must make an impact offensively if Ohio State is going to snuff the upset bid.
X-Factor: Slow Down Offensively and Defend the Three-Point Line
Limiting South Dakota State’s offensive possessions is very important for Ohio State to succeed in this game. South Dakota State is a team that plays at a very high tempo and can punish their opponents from any spot on the court offensively. With opportunities, South Dakota State will score in bunches and has put up 90+ points in a game multiple times this season. Slowing things down offensively and valuing their offensive possessions will go a long way for the Buckeyes and make their defense stronger. As for defending the 3-point line, Ohio State ranks 161st in the country for defending the three-point line. They must make sure they are contesting shots on the perimeter and know where they are on the court at all times defensively because the Jackrabbits make their living from beyond the arc. If the Buckeyes fail to get in the face of the opposing shooters, it could be a long day for Ohio State.
South Dakota State Jackrabbits (28-6) (13-1) – Summit League
The Jackrabbits from the Summit League are back into the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four years and for the fifth time in the last seven years! South Dakota State has never won a game in the NCAA Tournament, but Mike Daum is ready to make history for the Jackrabbits. After setting a school record for the most wins in a season with a 28-6 record, South Dakota State will take a short trip to Boise to meet up with the 5-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes. South Dakota State is an excellent team when it comes to turning the ball over, only averaging about 10 TPG, which is ranked 11th in the nation for fewest turnovers/game, and are a very strong shooting team; amongst the nation’s best shooting teams! The Jackrabbits are a trendy upset pick of the first weekend and rightfully so!
Mike Daum is one of the most underrated players in the country, mostly because nobody really watches South Dakota State basketball. Mike Daum is an extremely talented and gifted basketball player and has single-handedly carried South Dakota State to where they are now, and where they may be in the next few days! Daum ranks 6th in the nation in scoring (23.8 PPG) and is 1 of 48 players in the country shooting over 40% from three-point range (min. 200 attempts). Not only was Daum named Summit League Player of the Year for the second straight year, but he may receive some national awards as well! The “Dauminator” is just so hard to guard with his size and stature and is one of the best shooters in the country as well. There are not many teams that can say they have a player like this on their team, making South Dakota State a very unique team in the tournament.
X-Factor: Three-Point Shooting and Scoring Margin
If there is one thing South Dakota State does well, it is definitely their ability to score and shoot from the three-point line. The Jackrabbits rank 20th in the country for highest scoring margin, with a scoring margin of 10.8, and shoot 40.3% from three-point range as a team, which ranks 11th in the country. Want more amazing offensive stats for this Jackrabbits team? Well, South Dakota State also ranks #6 in the country in scoring offense, averaging 84.9 PPG. In a standard game for South Dakota State, they make an average 10.6 three-pointers per game, and against an Ohio State team which does not defend the long-range shot very well, South Dakota State may be ready to pull off the upset over the Buckeyes!
Match-up to Watch: Keita Bates-Diop vs. Mike Daum
Bates-Diop and Daum will likely be matched up against one-another in the low-post and outside on the perimeter throughout the game. There is not much to say about this match-up other than Keita Bates-Diop will have his hands full. He has been a very impactful defender this season, averaging 1.7 BPG and 1.0 SPG. For a big guy, those are pretty good numbers, especially on the perimeter. If Bates-Diop and the rest of the Buckeyes can force the ball out of Daum’s hands and force someone else to make their shots, the Buckeyes should be able to escape this upset-happy Jackrabbits team, but if Daum has his way and “dauminates” like he usually does, Ohio State could be on their way back to Columbus.
Prediction: #5 Ohio State 70 – #12 South Dakota State 74
I think Ohio State is an exceptional basketball team and they had a fantastic first season under new head coach, Chris Holtmann, but they got a horrible draw on Selection Sunday for their skill set. For not being a great at defending the three-pointer, the Buckeyes drew one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country and I think this will be their downfall. Ohio State averages around 6.8 three-pointers per game and if they shoot below their season average, I do not see them coming out on top in this one. They must try and match South Dakota State’s offensive firepower to win this game and if they fail to do so, Mike Daum and the Jackrabbits will likely be taking on Gonzaga in the second round!