A first look at possible Ohio State NCAA tournament opponents

US PRESSWIRE

We won't know exactly who Ohio State will play in the first second round until Selection Sunday, but if the various mock brackets being circulated are reasonably accurate, we have a general idea of a handful of squads the Buckeyes could potentially face. Which matchups would be the most intriguing?

After yesterday's thrilling upset of Indiana, Buckeye fans can relax a little bit. After beating their 3rd top five team of the season, and finally securing a critical road victory, the Buckeyes will probably get no lower than a 5 seed in the NCAAs, and have the potential to climb into the 2/3 range if they beat Illinois and make a little noise in the Big Ten tournament.

For the sake of this exercise, let's assume that Ohio State ends up in the 4/5 seed range. While we obviously won't know Ohio State's actual second round opponent until Selection Sunday, we can take a look around the various media mock brackets and get a rough idea of the handful of teams that Ohio State could potentially face in the second round. Let's check out which games we should secretly root for, and which ones could scare the daylights out of Buckeye fans.

Louisiana Tech (26-3, 16-0 in the WAC)

Best win: 65-55 over Southern Miss (RPI 46).

Worst Loss: 80-72 at McNeese State (RPI 245)

Best Player: Probably sophomore Raheem Appleby, a 6-3 guard averaging 14.8 ppg.

The skinny: You don't go 26-3 by accident, but if you do it against horrible competition like the Bulldogs, you won't be seeded higher than 12 or 13. Louisiana Tech rides balanced scoring (5 players other than Appleby average at least 6 points a game), and they have consistently beaten the teams on their schedule, but it is difficult to project how they would do in the tournament since they have barely played anybody. Their best win is over a Southern Miss squad that thanks to a late loss against Marshall, won't dance unless they upset Memphis in the CUSA tourney. The Bulldogs lost against Texas A&M 71-59 in the only BCS caliber league game they played. The lack of a star power and experience against strong competition should mean this probably isn't a squad made to upset the Buckeyes.

FEAR FACTOR: ONE PANICS. If OSU is playing in the 4/5 range, this is one of the better matchups they could hope for.

Valparaiso (24-7, 13-3 in the Horizon)

Best win: @ Detroit 89-88 (RPI 58)

Worst Loss: 63-54 against Loyola (IL) (RPI 220)

Best Player: 6-7 senior big man Ryan Broekhoff, who leads the Crusaders in scoring at 15.9 ppg and rebounds at 7.5. He's hit double figures in every game this year but two.

The Skinny: Valpo is another team that doesn't have too many quality wins under their belt, and the Horizon League isn't nearly as strong now that Cleveland State is struggling and Butler bolted to the A-10. The Crusaders were fairly competitive against New Mexico and St Louis out of conference, but also lost by 2 points to Nebraska. Broekhoff is a great mid-major forward, and with 6-8 Kevin Van Wijk forming a potent frontcourt, they could potentially cause problems for a little while for an Ohio State. The huge disparity in guard quality should prevent an upset from brewing though.

FEAR FACTOR: ONE AND ONE HALF PANICS. Valpo has some talented big men that could get Amir Williams in company in foul trouble, but they'll struggle to get the ball. Valpo could make Ohio State sweat for 15 minutes but probably isn't well equipped to spring an upset.

Middle Tennessee State (27-4, 19-1 Sun Belt)

Best Win: 65-62 over Ole Miss (RPI 57)

Worst Loss: 66-60 @ Arkansas State (152)

Best Player: 6-2 senior Marcos Knight leads the Blue Raiders in points at 12.6ppg and rebounds at 5.6 a game.

The Skinny: Like Louisiana Tech, MTSU is a balanced squad (7 players score at least 6 a game) that has beaten a lot of bad basketball teams. The Blue Raiders have a slightly better resume though, with wins over Ole Miss and Vandy, and three of their losses are against likely tourney teams (Florida, overtime at Akron and against Belmont). The lack of a superstar player or the ability to really slow down the game hurts their chances against Ohio State, but MTSU may be able to beat somebody else depending on the matchup.

FEAR FACTOR: ONE AND ONE HALF PANICS. Could be a upset team, but not against a team as good defensively as Ohio State.

Belmont (24-6, 14-2 in the OVC)

Best Win: 64-49 over Middle Tennessee State (RPI 23)

Worst Loss: 74-71 vs Northeastern (RPI 160)

Best Player: Senior Ian Clark is dangerous, averaging 18.1 ppg and shooting 46% from three.

The Skinny: Even casual fans have heard of Belmont, a team that is perentially a trendy upset pick for the Big Dance. They have a decent collection of quality wins (Ohio, MTSU, Stanford), and Clark is the kind of guy that can blow up from long range and terrify everybody. They aren't exceptionally big, and could even potentially miss the tourney if they lose to Murray State in the OVC finals, but they could certainly be a dangerous team.

FEAR FACTOR: THREE AND A HALF PANICS. Team that won't be afraid of a big name + at least one long range bomber? These are the teams that spring upsets.

Tennessee (17-11, 9-7 in the SEC)

Best Win: 64-58 over Florida (RPI 6)

Worst Loss: Two losses to Georgia (RPI 130)

Best Player: Probably Jordan McRae, a 6-5 junior who averages 16 points and 4 boards a game, but Jarnell Stokes, a 6-8 big man who nearly averages a double double at 12.4 and 9.2 isn't far behind.

The Skinny: Tennessee certainly has big time talent, and Stokes could end up being a major headache for Ohio State, who has struggled a little defending talented big men. The Vols are maddeningly inconsistent, with two losses against a bad Georgia team, and a 38 point showing against Virginia that set basketball back 50 years. You never know what Tennessee squad is going to show up.

FEAR FACTOR: TWO AND A HALF PANICS. Stokes and McRae would get theirs, but if McRae doesn't completely blow up, Ohio State probably has the pieces to slow them down.

Villanova (18-12, 9-8 in the Big East)

Best Win: 73-64 against Louisville (RPI 4)

Worst Loss: 75-57 against Columbia (RPI 264)

Best Player: Probably JayVaughn Pinkston, a 6-7 do-it-all player who leads the team with 12.7 ppg and is second with 4.8 boards a game.

The Skinny: There aren't many more teams that are more bipolar than Nova. The Wildcats have one of the most impressive collections of impressive wins, with scalps from Louisville, Marquette, Syracuse and @ Uconn. They also have some of the most baffling losses, like their blowout against Columbia, or getting swept by Providence. The Wildcats are capable of playing excellent team defense, but have struggled when they're playing away from home.

FEAR FACTOR: TWO PANICS. The Buckeyes would probably be playing the Wildcats far away from Philly, and they are better equipped than most teams to win an ugly game if they have to.

Akron (24-5, 14-1 MAC)

Best Win: 82-77 against MTSU 82-77 (RPI 23)

Worst Loss: 74-70 @ Coastal Carolina (RPI 268)

Best Player: Gotta go with 7 footer Zeke Marshall, who puts up 12.9 points and 6.9 rebounds while blocking 3.6 shots a game and redirecting countless others. 6-7 Demetrius Treadwell is no slouch either.

The Skinny: I am terrified of Akron. They blew out Penn State and took a very good Oklahoma State team to overtime, swept a good Ohio squad and have been very good at being consistent in the MAC. They have something that most mid-majors don't have, strong size, with a shotblocker that would start for almost everybody in the Big Ten, and guards who can hit open three pointers. I think Akron has a great shot to win a game, maybe more in the NCAAs, and I don't want them to have anything to do with Ohio State.

FEAR FACTOR: 5 OUT OF 5 PANICS. Pray we avoid Akron. Zeke Marshall has Amir Williams in foul trouble ALREADY.

This is not a comprehensive list obviously, and will be updated as we get closer to March Madness.

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