First Niagara Center
Ohio State and Dayton square off in the first game of the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY. This will be the first meeting since the NIT Tournament in 2008 between the two teams that are separated by an hour drive on I-70. In the 2008 matchup Ohio State beat Dayton, 74-63, in Columbus. Ohio State went on to win the NIT Tournament that year, and will be hoping another win against Dayton will result in another title this year.
Dayton is one of six teams from the Atlantic-10 to earn a bid to the tournament, a record number of berths for the conference. The Flyers have won 10 of their last 12 games, with the only losses during that stretch coming to A-10 tournament champion St. Joseph's.
The Flyers have a couple familiar faces to Thad Matta and the rest of the Buckeyes. Jordan Sibert is Dayton's leading scorer, averaging 12.5 points per game and shooting 44% from three-point range. Sibert spent the first couple years of his college basketball career in Columbus, but transferred to Dayton.
Along with Sibert, former Ohio State assistant Archie Miller is in his third season as Dayton's head coach. Miller is one of the youngest coaches in Division I college basketball, and sports a 60-37 record so far in his time at Dayton. On Miller's staff is assistant Kevin Kuwik, who was video coordinator for Ohio State before joining Miller's staff. Miller is the brother of current Arizona head coach Sean Miller, who also was an assistant under Thad Matta.
The Buckeyes come into today's game coming off a tough loss to Michigan in the Big Ten semifinals on Saturday. Thad Matta's team showed a lot of resiliency rebounding from a 16-point first half deficit, but the Buckeyes went cold from the field and the free throw line late in the game, only scoring one point in the last four minutes which allowed Michigan to take the lead back and secure the victory.
Ohio State will try and find some offense to support their stingy defense. Dayton's defense had been suspect during the earlier portions of the season, but has tightened up over their hot streak to close out the season. Ohio State has only cracked the 70-point mark three times since the beginning of February, and have been hampered all season by 69% shooting from the free throw line, and 33% shooting from behind the three-point line.
During the Big Ten Tournament Ohio State only went 12-51 from behind the arc and 41-65 from the free throw line. The Buckeyes were able to win two games in Indianapolis mostly behind the performance of LaQuinton Ross, who registered double-doubles in the first two games the Buckeyes played. Shannon Scott also provided a surprising offensive spark for Ohio State, hitting four three-pointers on his way to tying a career-high with 18 points in the loss against Michigan. Scott will be looking to duplicate the success of Ohio State's first game of last year's NCAA Tournament when he dished out 10 assists.
The winner of today's matchup will move on to play again on Saturday and meet the winner of the Syracuse/Western Michigan game, which will be played 30 minutes after the Ohio State/Dayton game ends. Should the Buckeyes meet Syracuse on Saturday, it will be a rematch of the Elite Eight meeting between the teams in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Should Ohio State make it to the Sweet Sixteen, it would mark the fifth straight year making that stage of the tournament.
Numbers to Know
Ohio State's roster has 53 games of NCAA Tournament experience, including 26 starts. This is one of the distinct advantages the Buckeyes have over a Dayton team that hasn't made the tournament since 2009, and only has limited minutes of tournament experience from Sibert and Georgetown transfer, Vee Sanford.
Even though that they are located only an hour from each other, these two teams have only met six times. Ohio State won the last meeting in 2008 in the NIT, but before that their previous scheduled meeting was back in 1988, which was the final game of a four-year series between the schools.
While Thad Matta's assistants may have learned from him before moving on to take a head coaching job, they don't have quite as much luck when squaring off with him. Matta has amassed a 12-4 record against his former assistants, with Brad Stevens being the only one to win twice against his former boss.
Cast of Characters
Dayton's leading scorer is one of the most publicized stories of the second round of the NCAA Tournament due to his former ties to Ohio State. But, Sibert can actually fill it up on the offensive end now that he has been given the chance, averaging 12.5 points per game this year. The junior should be pumped up to go up against his former team and some of his former teammates.
Oliver is averaging 12.1 points per game, which is second on the Flyers this year, and leads Dayton with 7.5 rebounds per game. Oliver has been especially hot lately, registering double-doubles in four of the last eight games.
Ross is Ohio State's leading scorer, and came up big for the team during the Big Ten Tournament. Over the three games in Indianapolis, Ross set career-highs in rebounding (15 v. Purdue) and scoring (26 v. Nebraska). Ross accumulated 64 points and 35 rebounds in the three games and will look to keep his hot play going.
Lenzelle Smith Jr.
Smith Jr. is Ohio State's second leading scorer this year, but has been quiet as of late, not reaching double figures in scoring in five of his last six games. The Buckeyes will have to get some more scoring punch out of Lenzelle if he has designs on playing a few more games in a Buckeye uniform.