After a two-year NCAA Tournament absence, Ohio State returns to the big dance today, meeting Summit League champion South Dakota State in Boise. The Jackrabbits will be making their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance, and fifth appearance in the last seven years. Today’s meeting will be the first time Ohio State and South Dakota State have ever faced each other.
The last time Ohio State took the floor was nearly two weeks ago, when they fell 69-68 to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden. The Buckeyes had a late lead against the Nittany Lions, but couldn’t make it stick, as Josh Reaves’ dunk with less than a minute to go was the difference in the game. Keita Bates-Diop finished with a team-high 25 points in the loss, while Jae’Sean Tate and Kam Williams each added 10 points. Ohio State has now lost three of their last five games, with two of those losses coming to Penn State.
This year’s NCAA Tournament bid marks the 28th tournament appearance for the Buckeyes in school history. Ohio State has posted a 49-26 all-time record in the NCAA Tournament, with their lone national title coming back in 1960. The Buckeyes have made 14 trips to the Sweet 16, and advanced to the Final Four 10 times. Ohio State has never been a 5-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Despite never playing South Dakota State, Ohio State has faced a few teams from the Summit League over the years. The Buckeyes are 5-1 against current Summit League teams, with the only loss coming to Denver back in 1951. The last time Ohio State played a team from the Summit League was in 2013, when the Buckeyes defeated North Dakota 79-62 in Columbus.
Ohio State is hoping Kaleb Wesson has saved one of his best performances of the season for today. The freshman will have a tough matchup, as he’ll be one of the Buckeyes responsible for trying to slow down South Dakota State’s Mike Daum. The Ohio State big man can’t afford to get into foul trouble early on like he did against Purdue and in a few other games this season, or else the Buckeyes will have a hard time finding anyone else who can effectively keep Daum in check.
South Dakota State comes into today’s matchup as one of the hottest teams in the country, winning their last 11 games. The only loss the Jackrabbits have suffered in 2018 came in late January, when they fell 87-68 at South Dakota. Since then, South Dakota State has been able to enact some revenge against their in-state rival, beating the Coyotes twice.
The most recent win over South Dakota came in the Summit League Championship Game, where the Jackrabbits were able to earn their third consecutive NCAA Tournament bid with a 97-87 victory. David Jenkins Jr. scored a team-high 29 points in the victory, while Mike Daum added 25 points and nine rebounds, as he was named Summit League Tournament MVP for the third consecutive season.
After 21 years as head coach at South Dakota State, Scott Nagy left for the same position at Wright State following the 2015-16 season. The Jackrabbits turned to Iowa State assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger as their next head coach. South Dakota State hasn’t missed a beat since Otzelberger took over as head coach, compiling at 46-23 record so far in Brookings. Otzelberger was part of the Iowa State staff in 2013, when the Cyclones were bounced from the NCAA Tournament by Ohio State after Aaron Craft hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Buckeyes a 78-75 victory.
What really makes the Jackrabbits tough to beat is their ability to hit three-pointers. So far this year, South Dakota State has hit 361 three-pointers, which ranks sixth in the country. The Jackrabbits are hitting 40.3% of their three-point attempts, which is 12th best in the country. South Dakota State hit a school-record 18 three-pointers in a win over Ole Miss in late November, and have hit 17 three-pointers in three other games.
What could set South Dakota State apart from Ohio State in this game is the veteran leadership the Jackrabbits possess. Not only does South Dakota State have star junior Mike Daum to attract much of the attention on offense, but they also have veterans like seniors Reed Tellinghuisen and Skyler Flatten, along with juniors Tevin King and Brandon Key. The experience of South Dakota State could provide the difference late in a close game.
Numbers to know
Jae’Sean Tate is currently 20th on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list with 1,493 points and ninth on Ohio State’s all-time rebounding list with 757 career rebounds. With four points, Tate will tie Troy Taylor for 19th on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list, while four more rebounds will tie Tate with Dave Sorensen for eighth on Ohio State’s career rebounding list. While it is unlikely Tate will be able to move up any farther on Ohio State’s all-time rebounding list, the senior could move up a couple more spots on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list if the Buckeyes are able to make a run in the NCAA Tournament.
At least Ohio State has a coach with some NCAA Tournament experience, since there isn’t much tournament experience on the Buckeyes’ roster. Ohio State enters today’s game with nine total games of NCAA Tournament experience, three of which come from Andrew Dakich’s time at Michigan. Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate, and Kam Williams all appeared in two games the last time Ohio State was in the NCAA Tournament in 2015. South Dakota State will feature more NCAA Tournament experience in today’s game, as they are making their third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio State’s defense will have their hands full today, as they’ll be tasked with slowing down one of the highest scoring offenses in the country. South Dakota State averaged 84.9 points per game this year, which ranked sixth in Division I. The Jackrabbits are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country, and they also make the most of their opportunities when put on the foul line. The Buckeyes will have to be careful not to fall into a hole early against the Jackrabbits, or Ohio State might not be able to play catchup against South Dakota State’s potent offense.
Cast of characters
The battle between Keita Bates-Diop and South Dakota State’s Mike Daum should be fun to watch this afternoon. After carrying the Buckeyes all year long, Bates-Diop should be re-energized after having nearly two weeks of rest. The Big Ten Player of the Year enters the NCAA Tournament averaging 19.4 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game. Bates-Diop has scored 620 points so far this season, which is 19th most in Ohio State history. If the junior hits his season average today he’ll pass Jay Burson’s 625 points in 1987-88, Evan Turner’s 632 points in 2009-10, and Jared Sullinger’s 635 points in 2010-11.
If Ohio State gets into a shootout with South Dakota State, the Buckeyes will need Kam Williams to be on the mark. The senior started to find his touch late in the year, reaching double figures in each of the last three games. In each of those games, Williams shot at least 50% from the field, with his best performance coming in the double overtime win against Indiana, where he scored 15 points. Williams will be looking to record his first point in an NCAA Tournament game, as he went scoreless in 12 minutes over two games in 2015.
South Dakota State
Not only did Mike Daum take home the Summit League Tournament MVP for the third consecutive year, but the junior was named Summit League Player of the Year for the second straight year. Daum is averaging 23.8 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game, making him one of just three Division I players to average at least 20 points per game and 10 rebounds per game, joining Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and St. Mary’s Jock Landale. Daum is sixth nationally in scoring and has recorded 21 double-doubles this season.
David Jenkins Jr.
After coming off the bench to start off his South Dakota State career, the freshman from Washington earned his first start in December against North Dakota, and has started every game, except for one, since. Jenkins was named Summit League Freshman of the Year after averaging 16.1 points per game. The 549 points Jenkins has scored so far during his freshman season ranks eighth in the country. Jenkins has topped 20 points in 12 games this year, and scored a season-high 31 points on two separate occasions.
How to watch:
Game time: 4:00 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 WBNS-FM
Streaming: March Madness Live