By now, you've probably heard that Ohio State will host Akron in the first round of the NIT Tuesday. This could be a difficult game on a number of levels, but Ohio State has superior talent, length and athleticism, and if they come into this game really wanting to win, they have a pretty good shot. KenPom, for what it's worth, gives Ohio State a 69% chance of beating the Zips, with a predicted score of 72-68.
But Akron isn't the only team in these quadrants, and if Ohio State is going to play in the NIT, they're going to want more than just a victory over the Zips. Can Ohio State win this quadrant, or even the whole dang NIT? Let's take a closer look at Ohio State's obstacles to getting to New York City.
No. 1 seed, Monmouth (27-7, No. 67 KenPom)
You've probably heard of the Monmouth basketball team this season, if for nothing else than the antics of their bench players, who have the audacity to make college basketball fun. The Hawks also leapt into the public consciousness after playing a murderous early season schedule, which included wins over UCLA, Notre Dame, USC, Georgetown ... and also Rutgers. This team should be in the NCAA Tournament, but a few sub 200 RPI losses doomed them in the eyes of the committee. That's dumb, because it isn't Monmouth's fault they play in the MAAC, or can't get decent teams to play them at home. But we digress.
The Hawks are a top 50 KenPom defensive efficiency team, and play at the 8th fastest pace on offense in the country. They'll get up and down the court, defend the three point line exceptionally well, and they hit their free throws. Ohio State's length could probably give them significant problems, but they're a one seed for a reason. They're a good basketball team.
No. 2 seed, Florida (19-14, No. 44 KenPom)
The Gators are Ohio State's most likely second round opponent, although thanks to renovations at Florida's arena, this game would be in Columbus instead of Gainesville. In many ways, Florida is similar to Ohio State. They're a strong defensive team (No. 20 in defensive efficiency), but bad at shooting threes (31.2% from downtown, ranked 301st in the country) and free throws (64.4%, one of the very worst in the country). The stats like the Gators for a reason, and they would also be a challenging opponent for Ohio State, but not an unbeatable one.
No. 4 George Washington (23-10, No. 77 KenPom)
Thought to be a tournament team earlier in the season thanks to big wins against Virginia, Tennessee, and Seton Hall, the Colonials weren't able to sustain that momentum in conference play, dropping most of their matchups against the class of the A-10. GWU is a top 50 offensive efficiency KenPom squad, paced by 6-9 Tyler Cavanaugh, who could be a matchup problem for Ohio State, although the Buckeyes should also be able to score should these two teams match up.
No. 5 Hofstra (24-9, No. 81 KenPom)
The Pride have a few nice victories on the season (they beat Florida State and St. Bonaventure), and had won eight games in a row heading into their CAA Tournament tilt against UNC-Wilmington, but couldn't get the W. The Pride play reasonably efficient offense and take care of the basketball, but they don't block shots especially well, and they have little depth (their bench plays some of the fewest minutes in the country). KenPom doesn't love their chances to beat GW, and the Pride advancing far enough to play Ohio State feels unlikely.
No. 6 Akron (26-8, No. 85 KenPom)
You better believe the Zips will be fired up to face Ohio State, and if the Buckeyes aren't careful, they could absolutely get upset. Akron is one of the best teams in the country at both shooting the three (38.9% from downtown, good for 16th nationally) and defending it (teams only shoot 30.3% on them, good for 10th nationally). The Zips also take care of the basketball, and have a big man, Isaiah Johnson, who could give Ohio State problems. If the Buckeyes can stay out of foul trouble in the frontcourt, they can use their length to harass Akron's backcourt and get a W, but this is probably going to be a close game.
No. 7 North Florida (22-11, No. 189 KenPom)
The gap between the six and seven seeds in these quadrants, at least according to KenPom, is pretty vast. The Ospreys did open the season with a win over Illinois, but got smashed by most of the other power teams on their schedule, and got destroyed by Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun Tournament. Per KenPom, North Florida has some of the least efficient defense in the country, and struggles to rebound and create turnovers. They've had a nice season, but if the Gators show up, they should roll against North Florida.
No. 8 Bucknell (17-13, No. 170 KenPom)
The advanced stats like the Bison a little more than the North Florida Ospreys, but they'll have an even tougher road in the NIT first round. Bucknell didn't do much before Patriot League play, losing seven games in a row to some relatively average competition, but recovered to do well against most other Patriot League squads. Bucknell doesn't block shots, create steals or play exceptional defense, but they're decently efficient on offense. KenPom only gives them a 14% of beating Monmouth, and it would be an exceptional surprise to see them face Ohio State later in the NIT.