Even though twitter told us that this Ohio State Buckeye team was easily a one and done team in the Big Dance, the No. 7 seed Buckeyes (20-11) defeated the No. 10 seed Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (25-8) 54-41 on Friday afternoon to advance to the Round of 32 in the 2022 NCAA tournament. It was not a pretty win, but in March that doesn’t matter. Win and move on. Survive and advance. The Buckeyes survived and they advanced.
The Buckeyes and head coach Chris Holtmann, who moved to 6-1 all-time in the first round of the NCAA tournament with the win over the Ramblers, now face the No. 2 seed Villanova Wildcats (27-7). The Wildcats started their season 7-4 with losses to Purdue, UCLA, Baylor, and Creighton. After those opening 11 games, the Wildcats closed their season 20-3, winning the Big East tournament as the two seed, behind Providence. It is worth mentioning the Wildcats beat Providence twice in two tries this season. Coach Holtmann also recorded his fifth straight 20 win season as the Buckeyes headman.
The Buckeyes are just one of 12 teams to make the last four NCAA tournaments and are in the Round of 32 for the third time in those four seasons. It would be five but the 2020 tournament was canceled due to COVID 19.
The winner of this game will move on to face No. 11 seed Michigan after the Wolverines defeated No. 6 seed Colorado State and No. 3 seed Tennessee in the first two rounds.
When it comes to this one, it is very simple. Ohio State will have to play similar defense against Villanova as they did against Loyola-Chicago while playing much better on the offensive end. That is backward to how the Buckeyes have played all season, as normally their offense is fine and the defense could use some work.
The Buckeyes came with more defensive intensity than they have all season against the Ramblers and it was a good time for it because they only scored 54 points and 18-for-43 from the field and a dismal 1-for-15 from three-point land.
The good news for Ohio State is Villanova is not quite as good on defense as Loyola-Chicago is and the Buckeyes are too good of an offensive team to go that cold for two games straight. Guys like Jamari Wheeler, Cedric Russell, and Justin Ahrens know that every game could be their last and they will be more motivated than ever to knock down those shots.
As mentioned, the Wildcats are coached by Jay Wright. Wright and Holtmann have a great relationship dating back to Holtmann’s days at Butler and Chris Holtmann is 3-4 in his career against Wright. The Wildcats are led offensively by guards Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore
The senior Gillespie (15.9 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.4 APG) and junior Moore (15.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG) truly make up one of the best backcourts in basketball and are also incredibly veteran and experienced. They have done everything except win a championship at Villanova. The Wildcats are made up in the frontcourt of senior Jermaine Samuels (10.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG) and junior Eric Dixon (9.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG). Senior guard Caleb Daniels also averages 10.2 points per game and 3.4 rebounds per game. Senior forward Brandon Slater averages 8.9 points per game and 3.7 rebounds per game.
This Villanova team is so tough because they can get it from a lot of different guys. Gillespie and Moore are the leaders but Samuels, Dixon, Daniels, and Slater are all incredibly talented and can make shots for the Wildcats. They know their roles and make very few mistakes. This will have to be a masterclass defensive performance from the Buckeyes.
The more I look at this matchup, the more I like Ohio State’s chances honestly. At first glance, Villanova was a nightmare matchup for the Buckeyes due to Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore making up one of the top backcourts in college basketball, the Wildcats experience, and Jay Wright is a top-five coach in the game.
However, Villanova runs pretty much a six-man rotation and should not have an answer inside for E.J. Liddell, Kyle Young, and Zed Key. Forward Eric Dixon is the Wildcats' biggest rotation player at 6’8.
The Buckeyes will need to play a near-perfect game to pull off this upset. Villanova is a trendy Final Four pick and some people have them winning the whole thing.
I have Villanova winning this game in a close one and bringing Ohio State’s season to a close. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, this is a Villanova team that does not beat themselves and forces their opponents into mistakes. The Buckeyes have been a little bit too inconsistent at times this season for them to win this one. They will have to play a game like they did against Wisconsin earlier in the season to win this one. Or the final 10 minutes against Purdue.
I also have Villanova covering the DraftKings Sportsbook line as it currently sits at -5 for Villanova
DraftKings Sportsbook Line: Villanova (-5)
Time: 2:40 p.m. ET