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Ohio State enters NCAA Men’s Tournament second round as five-point ‘dogs to Villanova

A true college basketball powerhouse stands between the Buckeyes and their first Sweet Sixteen since 2013.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round Pittsburgh- Loyola (Il) at Ohio State Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The choice is up to you if you think today’s second-round game against two-seed Villanova is a crucial, must-win game for Chris Holtmann’s future or if the Buckeyes are simply playing with house money, but Vegas very clearly likes the Wildcats. The seven-seeded Buckeyes are currently five-point underdogs according to our friends over at DraftKings Sportsbook.

The five-point spread is actually fewer points than the other Big Ten seven-seed is getting today — the Michigan State Spartans are 6.5-point underdogs against two-seed Duke later today. While Ohio State pretty much dominated Loyola-Chicago defensively en route to a 13-point opening-round win, the Spartans did not cover their 1.5-point spread against 10-seed Davidson, winning 74-73.

Villanova, on the other hand, rode out an early Blue Hen rally before pulling away and beating 15-seed Delaware 80-60 Friday afternoon in Pittsburgh. The Wildcats have won two of the last eight national championships, are the big dog in the Big East, and walk into this game having won six straight games. KenPom has them pegged as the No. 8 offense in the nation — the third-best Ohio State has faced this season behind Purdue and Iowa.

The Wildcats sit at a more modest but still very impressive 29 in defensive efficiency, but do not possess the length or size necessary to give the Buckeyes fits down low. With Kyle Young and Zed Key back on the floor — in addition to E.J. Liddell — Ohio State should have the freedom to operate in the post with some level of confidence. Instead, the Wildcats start three forwards who are all between 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-8, giving them some versatility on both ends, but not one dominant post player. After watching Ohio State go 1-15 from three-point land on Friday, paint touches will be of utmost importance.

The over/under on total points in this game is tentatively set at 132 even, predicting a relatively low-scoring game. This number probably would’ve been higher if the Buckeyes hadn’t participated in an all-out muck fight against Loyola the other day. Clearly, Vegas does not expect either team to speed things up. The Wildcats are one of the slowest teams in the nation as well, clocking in at No. 345 (out of 358) in tempo.

After watching the Buckeyes battle Loyola Friday, are you confident that Ohio State will win this game and go to the Sweet Sixteen — or at least cover the five points? Or do you think the Buckeyes’ lockdown defense won’t translate against a high-powered ‘Nova offense? We’ll find out the answer in a few short hours.