NCAA Tournament 2014: Ohio State's chances, Final Four predictions

Mike Lawrie

Ohio State is matched up with in-state foe Dayton in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Will they advance? Exactly how far can they go?

Ohio State enters the NCAA Tournament winners of three out of its last four games and with some momentum.

They ended the regular season with a tough fought victory against Michigan State, the eventual Big Ten Tournament champions. After winning two games in Indianapolis, the Buckeyes played the Big Ten regular season champion Michigan Wolverines to a one-possession game.

"I haven't seen that kind of fight in our team all year. It's a momentum boost, for sure," said senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. after finding out Ohio State would be a 6-seed in the big dance.

The Buckeyes drew the South region and a second round matchup that has all the local media salivating. Ohio State faces the 11-seed Dayton Flyers, coached by former Ohio State assistant Archie Miller. The Flyers also have a familiar face starting at guard. Ohio State transfer Jordan Sibert is averaging 12.5 points per game and 1.5 assists per game for the Flyers this season. We broke down Sibert's game in a little more detail here.

The time is now for Ohio State to play to its capabilities and make a run. We break down the Buckeyes' chances of advancing deep into the tournament:

South Region

The top four seeds in the South region could be mistaken for a Final Four slate on any given year. Florida, Kansas, Syracuse, and UCLA not only have the big names, but they all have the NBA talent.

Ohio State head coach Thad Matta could not muster more than a simple "wow" after being alerted to such basketball royalty in his bracket.

Assuming the Buckeyes can advance past the upset-minded Flyers, they would be faced with a Syracuse team that has lost five of seven games going into the tournament. However, the length of the Syracuse zone has caused many issues for more offensively talented teams than the Buckeyes.

Without a consistent deep threat to stretch the zone, Ohio State could be looking at another poor offensive showing in the third round.

If Aaron Craft can pressure freshman point guard Tyler Ennis into some turnovers in critical moments, Ohio State has a chance to make what would be a surprising Sweet 16 appearance.

Waiting for them would likely be the winner of a Kansas-New Mexico showdown in St. Louis. This would be no cake walk for the Jayhawks, who will be missing center Joel Embiid for at least the first weekend of the tournament.

Embiid is projected as a top-five pick in the 2014 NBA Draft and serves as Kansas' main rim protector. Without the star freshman anchoring the middle of the Kansas defense, New Mexico poses big time problems with 7-foot center Alex Kirk and 6-foot-9 forward Cameron Bairstow. Bairstow averaged 20.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game en route to being named First Team all-Mountain West.

Both the Jayhawks and Lobos would stand to simply out class Ohio State's big men Amir Williams and Trey McDonald.

On the other side of the South region Florida, UCLA, and VCU could all conceivably make appearances in the regional final.

Ultimately, the Buckeyes lack the depth and offensive firepower to make a Final Four run. According to newly relaunched, Ohio State has just a 4 percent chance of making the Final Four and an even smaller chance of winning the whole tournament (2 percent).

Anything further than the Sweet 16 for the 2013-14 Buckeyes would be a stunner.


South: Syracuse

Despite looking very beatable late in the season, Syracuse's zone is still a puzzle that is difficult to solve. The Orange also have the guard play that tends to win big NCAA Tournament games. Tyler Ennis stays cool during pressure situations and will carry Syracuse all the way to North Texas even if they have to get by mighty Kansas.

East: Michigan State

Did you see the Spartans play in the Big Ten Tournament? That's the Michigan State team I expect to show up in the big dance. They are experienced. They are tough. They can shoot it from the perimeter. Tom Izzo has never had a senior class miss the Final Four in its four years, and this will not be the first one.

West: San Diego State

This is my sleeper pick, for sure. The Aztecs do one thing better than any other team in the East region: defend. Mountain West Player of the Year Xavier Thames has ice water in his veins. He is not afraid to shoot the ball in big spots and is a tough individual defender. With the weakest set of top seeds, the door is open for Steve Fisher's squad to break through as this year's cinderella.

Midwest: Wichita State

This team has been disrespected so much that they are officially underrated, which is odd considering they are the first team to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated since the 1991 UNLV Rebels. This team is not just smoke and mirrors. The Shockers were a few possessions from knocking out the eventual national champion Louisville Cardinal in last season's Final Four. With the emergence of freshman point guard Fred Van Vleet and the senior leadership of Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker, the Shockers will run through the Midwest to make a return appearance in the Final Four.

National Champion: Wichita State

It would be completely unprecedented for a team from a small conference to rise up and finish a season 40-0. The Shockers have the talent and experience to get it done. They will defeat Michigan State in a close one to capture the school's first national championship.

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