"We couldn't overlook this game, it's another opportunity to get better. Postseason play for this team is a good thing."
- Marc Loving, via Bill Landis, Northeast Ohio Media Group
It might not mean much to the average or casual fan of Ohio State basketball, but despite missing the NCAA Tournament, the experience gained in the NIT means a lot for the Buckeyes. Keita Bates-Diop wasn't able to play in the game due to an illness, which led to the first career start for Kam Williams. Williams was determined to make the most of his start, taking plenty of shots early for the Buckeyes. But Williams' performance mattered most in overtime, when he helped the Buckeyes pull away, before JaQuan Lyle sealed the deal.
The game wasn't pretty by any means, but the young group of Buckeyes who had been playing just seven players (six after Trevor Thompson fouled out) had to pull out a very close game in which they didn't exactly play great. That's a great learning experience, whether it comes in the regular season, conference tournament, NIT, or NCAA Tournament. As Landis points out, the loss of Bates-Diop put guys in positions that they hadn't experienced, the aforementioned Williams, and Mickey Mitchell getting more time. Thad Matta expects Bates-Diop to be back for second-round NIT action on Sunday, but the Buckeyes did decent in his absence.
"Welcome to life in the NIT, where having the higher seed doesn't guarantee you anything."
- Bill Landis, Northeast Ohio Media Group
Ohio State is set to play Florida in the second round of the NIT on Sunday against the Florida Gators. The Buckeyes, seeded third, will play host to the Gators, who are a No. 2 seed. Normally, the higher seeded team would play host to the lower, but the Gators home arena is being renovated. Had the Gators lost, the Buckeyes would have hosted North Florida. You have to consider that a pretty decent draw for the Buckeyes when you still get homecourt either way.
The Gators are 20-14 on the season, and should provide for a good game against the Buckeyes, as we have seen many times in the past on the basketball court. Florida currently stands at 37 in the KenPom rankings, compared to Ohio State's 66 ranking. The Buckeyes are expecting to have Keita Bates-Diop back, which should provide the Buckeyes with a spark that was missing from their opening round game against Akron. Hopefully the Buckeyes can carry the momentum from Tuesday, and take advantage of the unexpected home floor advantage.
"Free agency shook up the list of draft needs, both for teams who made a splash signing big-ticket players and those who lost starters in the past week."
- Chris Burke, Sports Illustrated
Burke's latest mock draft is out, and it features changes after free agency started in the NFL. In his March 3 mock, Burke had Joey Bosa to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 4. In his latest, Bosa goes at No. 3 to the San Diego Chargers, not worrying about fit, and going with the best player available. Burke moved Noah Spence down from No. 11 to the Chicago Bears, to No. 12 with the Saints. Ezekiel Elliott, moved down three spots to the Miami Dolphins, after previously being projected to the New York Giants.
The biggest change of all came in that of offensive tackle Taylor Decker. Previously mocked at No. 30, Decker has found his way to the No. 16 spot, going to the Detroit Lions. Burke cites the team's efforts to bolster the defensive line, but desperately needing offensive line help, and Decker would be a permanent solution there. Darron Lee also made a big jump, from No. 24 to No. 17, placing him in Atlanta. The Falcons are thin at linebacker, and a fresh, quick body in the second line of defense would be big for them. Eli Apple fell out of the mock draft, but is mentioned as a possibility at No. 28 to the Chiefs.
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