"That's the biggest thing about the NCAA Tournament, trying to peak at the right time. We appear to be a team that's doing that."
Thad Matta's Buckeyes aren't the only Ohio State team entering the NCAA tournament, and might not even be the best team to represent Columbus when the tournament is all said and done. Instead, the women's basketball Buckeyes (coached by Kevin McGuff) enter March Madness as a 5-seed, five better than their men counterparts. Led by freshman guard Kelsey Mitchell, who has been a superstar scorer for Ohio State averaging 25 points per game (also leads the nation), the Buckeyes are looking to make a deep run in the tournament in their first appearance in three years.
Ohio State nearly pulled an upset in the Big Ten championship game, falling by just three points to Maryland. Its first opponent in the NCAA tournament on Saturday is 12-seed James Madison. The game will be played in Chapel Hill, N.C. as a part of the first round. With a win, the Buckeyes would likely go toe-to-toe with North Carolina on its home court. Still, it's certainly possible that the women's basketball team has a higher chance to make a deep run than the men's team.
"I think it's perception-reality. And the reality is they're the 7 seed and we're the 10 seed and those basketball geniuses in Indianapolis, they know what they're doing is what I'll tell our guys. And you're picked to lose. You're not supposed to win."
This isn't the first time Thad Matta has coached an underdog in the NCAA tournament. But Ohio State as an underdog might be a little unfamiliar territory. The 10-seeded Buckeyes will face off against 7-seeded VCU on Thursday as a part of the first round for the NCAA tournament. Vegas actually has Ohio State pegged as favorites right now, despite being the lower-seeded team. It's up to the Buckeyes to have the mindset of an underdog and potentially play spoiler to some higher seeds, such as 2-seeded Arizona, who will likely be awaiting the winner of Ohio State-VCU.
Despite the inconsistencies the team has had this season, D'Angelo Russell has enough talent to help propel the Buckeyes to wins. With some help from players like Shannon Scott and Jae'Sean Tate, Ohio State has at least a small chance to make some noise in the tournament come Thursday. A lot of that depends on which team decides to show up. If the Buckeyes can play like they did when they knocked off Maryland in Columbus, they could be a dangerous underdog during the month of March.
"We had pretty much been written off in the second week of the season, but this was a way for us and any other conference to keep things in perspective. They were receptive to the idea that the season wasn't complete after three weeks. They were receptive to how teams change and grow. They were receptive to playing big games against quality opponents on the road."
When Ohio State and Michigan State fell to the likes of Virginia Tech and Oregon, respectively, there was plenty of talk that the Big Ten might have essentially knocked themselves out of the College Football Playoff picture altogether. However, thanks to some sound logic, the playoff committee and to a larger extent the committee 'point people' didn't totally count the Big Ten (or the Buckeyes) out right away. They made notes of Ohio State's improvement and their impressive wins over the Spartans and the way the offense had blossomed despite not having their starting quarterback.
The opportunities that were had from Jim Delany being able to talk with the playoff committee 'point people' is a greatly important aspect of the way the College Football Playoff is determined. The committee heard what Delany and other conference commissioners had to say and looked at the tapes and numbers themselves. Because of this, the right teams were put into the inaugural playoff, and Ohio State was able to become a national championship team.
"I like Michael Bennett. He needs to be in a system where he plays 3-technique in a 4-3. They move him a lot. I think his quickness and explosion is what sets him apart. He can get overwhelmed a little bit at the point of attack just because of size, but that's where the movement helps."
When Michael Bennett pulled up after running somewhere in the 4.8 range for the 40-yard dash at his pro day, there was thought to be some concern about Bennett's durability and how that could affect his draft stock. But even before the injury, Bennett had proven to be quite the athletic defensive tackle, which made him enticing to NFL teams regardless of the injury. Among the other defensive tackles in the draft, Bennett is largely considered to be in the top tier of those players, and should be able to have a team pick him up somewhere around the second round.
After all, Shazier suffered an injury at his pro day last year before the draft and he was still taken in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Scouts are aware of the potential that Bennett has on the defensive line, with his speed and quickness standing out as factors that teams simply can't ignore. Because of this, it shouldn't take too long when the draft rolls around for Bennett to hear his name called.