After a crazy, up-and-down regular season, the No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team is preparing to open up the NCAA Tournament on Friday night against the No. 6 Iowa State Cyclones. The teams will square off in the nightcap in Tulsa, Okla. at approximately 9:50 p.m. ET/8:50 p.m. CT, or 25 minutes after the conclusion of the No. 3 Houston vs. No. 14 Georgia State contest, which is scheduled to tip at 7:20 p.m. ET/6:20 p.m. ET on Friday. The game will be broadcast on TBS.
To get an idea as to what exactly the Buckeyes are going to be up against, we talked to Matthias Schwartzkopf, an editor at SB Nation’s Iowa State blog Wide Right & Natty Lite about what Ohio State fans should expect in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
I reciprocated and answered some questions for them on their site, and on their podcast. So, if you want to check out another side of the conversation head over to the links below, but be forewarned... things got weird on the podcast.
LGHL: Like Ohio State, Iowa State ended the regular season on a three-game losing streak. Unlike Ohio State, the Cyclones got hot in the conference tournament and won their fourth Big 12 Tournament title in six years. What changed as they moved into the postseason?
Matthias Schwartzkopf: Toughness and a sense of teamwork. When the rough patch hit, Iowa State certainly lost themselves. They were getting outworked and out hustled in every aspect of the game and they just weren’t playing as a team. I think what changed was Michael Jacobson took over the team as a leader and set the tone for what they should expect as a team.
He did it both behind closed doors and with his play in Kansas City [the site of the Big 12 Tournament]. He was tremendous on both ends of the floor, and I think everything else just took off from there. The crazy thing about sports [is that] all it takes is something small, and I think we saw it here with the Cyclones. Some sort of spark just had to happen, it did, and now it appears they are back to their true form.
LGHL: Head coach Steve Prohm has five players who have started 33 of the team’s 34 games. Considering that that group includes a transfer-player and two freshmen, how important has that consistency been as ISU has navigated the season?
Matthias Schwartzkopf: I think it has been the most important thing, not just from a lineup standpoint but also their play on the court. When this team struggles, it’s when they do things inconsistently. When things were getting tough late in the season, many were calling for Prohm to insert Lindell Wigginton into the starting lineup and Prohm continued on with his same lineups.
Prohm is the type of guy that if he finds something that works, he sticks with it, and minimal changes happen from there. We saw that with the lineups, even when they were struggling. While you could have made the case to switch things up when they were struggling, I think even the slightest area of consistency (the lineup) was something they could hold true on and fix more important things.
LGHL: Iowa State — by most measures — was the best offensive team in the Big 12 this year, and they have four players averaging in double-figures. But, is there a lynchpin to their offense, that if you shut him down, the offense dramatically suffers? Or, if Ohio State focuses its defensive efforts on one specific player, will everyone else be able to step up?
Matthias Schwartzkopf: We talked about this on the podcast, but my pick would be Marial Shayok. Kansas State shut him down here in Ames, and Kansas State ended up winning that game. The thing is with Iowa State if Shayok is in fact struggling, Lindell Wigginton or Talen Horton-Tucker very well could go off and produce a ton of points for the Cyclones. So I don’t think Ohio State necessarily could focus everything on Shayok, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to take him out of the equation.
LGHL: Kaleb Wesson is without a doubt the most important player for Ohio State on both ends of the floor. But, given his proclivity for stupid fouls, he rarely stays on the floor enough to have as big of an impact as Buckeye fans would like. If he can avoid foul trouble, how do you think that Prohm and company will guard him? Will they let Michael Jacobson take him one-on-one; will they look to send help when he has the ball on the block; will they employ a zone?
Matthias Schwartzkopf: I don’t think we are going to see a zone be used as a main defense; they have used it sparingly to switch things up from time to time over the course of the game, [but] the zone just takes away some of the advantages of Iowa State’s athleticism defensively on the perimeter.
Iowa State has seen their fair share of post presences this season; they have done well [in some cases], and there have been some cases where they have looked absolutely lost. Thankfully they have avoided using a lot of doubling in the post. To start, I think Prohm will go one on one with Wesson, and feel it out from there.
Jacobson has come on as of late, and has given Iowa State a bit of a physical presence. Though, Wesson is a big guy at 270 pounds. Jacobson will have his work cut out for him, and Iowa State also can deploy Cameron Lard, but he also allows Wesson to have a considerable weight and strength advantage down low.
LGHL: How badly do Iowa State fans still hate Aaron Craft?
Matthias Schwartzkopf: We do not care for Mr. Craft. It’s not that we hate him as a person or player, but it’s one moment in the history of Iowa State athletics that was a nut kick and for that we have a strong dislike for the guy. He made a great shot, and you’ve got to tip your hat to him, but if you walk up to an Iowa State fan and say, “Aaron Craft,” the reaction probably won’t be positive.
Editor’s note: In case you don’t remember why Iowa State fans dislike the beloved former Buckeye point guard, watch this video:
All of a sudden, I'm having some really good memories of the NCAA Tournament. https://t.co/RnUpprsU74— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) March 17, 2019
LGHL: So, what do you think happens on Friday night? And, assuming you pick Iowa State to win, how far do you legitimately think they can go in the tournament?
Matthias Schwartzkopf: I think Iowa State wins this one, but I have a gut feeling of a little battle. I think Ohio State is talented, but has a bit of growing up to do. But, sometimes those can be some of the most dangerous teams in the NCAA Tournament.
When you don’t have a ton of expectations from your fanbase and you can go out there with nothing to lose and play free. I think you guys know what type of team that you have right now after a minor rebuild year, and you know they are probably a year away from being back to a 22+ win type of team and competing near the top of the Big Ten standings.
So give the Cyclones in this one by a score of 77-71.
If Iowa State brings the team they had in Kansas City during the Big 12 tournament, I think there is an Elite Eight run inside of them. The other side to this coin is that they have shown they are very capable of getting knocked out in Round One. This team is obviously very talented, and it all depends on which one shows up. Obviously momentum and confidence is high right now, so we will see come Friday night.
The No. 11 Ohio State Buckeyes will take on the No. 6 Land-Grant Holy Land and Wide Right & Natty Lite will have you covered from on sides as we head into The Big Dance later this week.