Evaluating Ohio State’s Draw in the South RegionPosted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on March 20th, 2014
With six teams from the Big Ten in the NCAA Tournament, Ohio State finds themselves as the lone league representative in the South Region. Recently, the Buckeyes have flourished in the single-elimination tournament platform. In the previous five seasons, they have either won, or been the runner-up in, the Big Ten Tournament and have made it to either the Elite Eight, Final Four, or Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four seasons. However, these are not the dominant Buckeyes we have become accustomed to. For starters, this year Ohio State lost eight games in the conference and did not make the Big Ten Tournament title game – both of which have not happened since the 2008-2009 season. Additionally, in the last four seasons Thad Matta’s squads have either been a #1 or #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament; this year they find themselves as a #6 seed, which is their lowest seeding since 2009. In short, if Aaron Craft wants to end his Buckeye career with same the level of postseason success he has always had, he’ll have a much more difficult road to get there than he has had in any season before.
In the Round of 64, Ohio State faces an intrastate match-up with Dayton. The Flyers (23-10, 10-6) squeaked into the NCAA Tournament by taking up one of the final at-large bids. They finished sixth in the Atlantic 10 conference and have wins against other tournament teams in Gonzaga, George Washington, UMass, and Saint Louis. While no flagship university enjoys facing their “little brothers” within the state in games of consequence (due to the innate no-win scenario “big brothers” find themselves in), when we compare the season performances of these two teams, the Buckeyes are clearly the more superior team. This may seem like an obvious statement when talking about a #6/#11 match-up, but according to kenpom.com and USA Today’s Sagarin ratings, the seedings underestimate the gap in performance between Ohio State and Dayton. If we take the Selection Committee seeding at face value (I know, I know. Just play along.), then a #6 seed and #11 seed will have a minimum rankings gap of 17 (#24 overall vs #41) or a maximum of 23 (#21 overall vs #44). But according to the two KenPom and Sagarin, the actual rankings gap between the two teams are 34 (#19 overall vs #53) and 44 (#14 overall vs #58), respectively.
As well placed as Ohio State is, this is the NCAA Tournament and upsets are abound. The #11 seed wins 33 percent of the time and has done so in 14 of the last 32 match-ups; so the Buckeyes won’t be able to waltz its way to the next round. On paper, these two teams are polar opposites. Ohio State has the #4 ranked defense in the country in terms of efficiency as it holds its opponent to an adjusted 0.9 points per possession while Dayton’s strength is their offense which has an adjusted efficiency of 1.13 points per possession (Top 30 nationally). Coincidentally, the Flyer’s offense is led by ex-Buckeye Jordan Siebert, who spent his first two years of eligibility on Thad Matta’s bench. The weakness for each team is the flip side of the court, where the Ohio State struggles to score beyond LaQuinton Ross and the Flyers are letting teams score an adjusted 1.01 points per possession. In the end, Dayton’s offense will likely be stifled enough that Ohio State’s offense will score on the Flyers’ porous defense and secure the win. Against VCU, a comparable defensive team to Ohio State (VCU is ranked #2 in adjusted defensive points per possession), Dayton was blown out by the Rams 80-66 on their own home court. If the Buckeyes come in with energy, a similar result should follow.
The rest of the bracket is the real challenge to Ohio State in making a deep run in the tournament. A Round of 32 match-up with Syracuse likely awaits them if they beat Dayton. If they manage to get past the Orange, their mostly likely Sweet Sixteen match-up is with national championship contending Kansas. Finally, if they managed to make the regional finals, they’ll almost certainly face the #1 overall seed Florida. My prediction: Craft’s final game will be a Sweet Sixteen loss to Kansas.