With the final set of “Third Round” games finishing up Sunday night, it’s time for the Sweet 16. As we do every year, we will have in-depth previews of each Sweet 16 and Elite 8 matchup this weekend.
In this post, we preview the East Region Sweet 16 matchup between the #1 seed Ohio State and 6th-seeded Cincinnati.
Ohio State-Cincinnati Sweet 16 Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #2 Ohio State v #6 Cincinnati in East Region
- Ohio State-Cincinnati Date: Thursday, March 22
- Ohio State-Cincinnati Tip Time: TBA
- Ohio State-Cincinnati Location: Boston
- Ohio State-Cincinnati TV: TBA
- Ohio State-Cincinnati Announcers: TBA
- Ohio State-Cincinnati Point Spread: TBA
- Tickets: East Regional Tickets in Boston
Ohio State-Cincinnati Analysis and Prediction
Four teams from the state of Ohio made it to the Sweet Sixteen, and two of them will face one another in Boston.
On Saturday, Ohio State won a close game against Gonzaga to advance. Sophomore Deshaun Thomas came up huge for the Buckeyes with 18 points and seven rebounds, while fellow soph Aaron Craft had 17 points and dished out 10 assists. Cincinnati grabbed the final spot in the Sweet Sixteen by beating Florida State in a defensive matchup on Sunday night. Sean Kilpatrick led three double-digit scorers with 18 points, while Dion Dixon had 15 and made a huge steal in the final minutes.
This matchup will feature two of the nation’s 25 most efficient defenses. Ohio State ranks first in adjusted efficiency and will provide a tough challenge for Cincinnati’s offense. The Bearcats don’t shoot the ball particularly well, but they have a low turnover rate and do a solid job of crashing the offensive glass. The Buckeyes have an impressive defensive turnover rate, but I don’t see them forcing a ton of miscues in this one. They do, however, boast the nation’s second-ranked defensive rebounding percentage, which obviously isn’t great news for a Cincinnati team that counts on second chance points as a key part of its offense.
Don’t expect Cincinnati to shoot many free throws though, as the Bearcats have one of the lowest free throw rates in the country, while the Buckeyes do a terrific job of keeping their opponents off the stripe. Overall, it’s tough to feel all that confident about the Cincinnati offense.
That being said, their stingy defense should allow them to keep it close. Overall, the Bearcats rank inside the Top 25 in defensive efficiency and are in the Top 10 in opponents’ free throw rate. Ohio State doesn’t have a particularly high free throw rate in the first place, so don’t count on the Buckeyes parading to the line.
Unlike last season, Ohio State has struggled with its long-range shooting this year, but they have done well inside the arc with a gaudy 53.7 percent success rate on two-pointers. The Bearcats have shown strong defense against twos and threes this year, and they’ll need to keep that up against Jared Sullinger inside.
One area where Ohio State appears to have a substantial advantage is on the offensive glass. The Buckeyes have grabbed 36 percent of their misses this season, and they rank inside the Top 40 nationally. On the other side, Cincinnati has struggled to prevent second chance points, and the Bearcats rank outside of the Top 250 in defensive rebounding percentage. If they want to spring the upset, Cincinnati has to find a way to keep Sullinger, Thomas, and even Evan Ravenel off the glass.
The obvious matchup to watch here is between Sullinger and Cincinnati big man Yancy Gates inside. Neither team can really afford foul trouble for their key post players, so that definitely bears watching. I’m equally intrigued by the backcourt matchups involving OSU’s Aaron Craft and William Buford and Cincinnati’s trio of Dion Dixon, Cashmere Wright, and Sean Kilpatrick. Craft and Wright are among the national leaders in steal percentage, so I can’t wait to see them get into each other defensively.
Cincinnati’s defense is terrific, and the team has played extremely well down the stretch, but I’m just not sure how they can score enough points to win this game. Look for Ohio State to get after it on the offensive glass, and as has been the case many times for Ohio State lately, Deshaun Thomas will be the difference-maker.
Predicted Winner: Ohio State
Ohio State Buckeyes Team Capsule
- Conference: Big Ten
- Record: 27-7 (13-5 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 6-4
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 10-6
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Duke, Florida, Indiana, Lamar, Michigan (2), Michigan State, Purdue (2), Wisconsin
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Michigan State (2), Wisconsin
- Player to Watch: Jared Sullinger (6’9” C, So.) – 17.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 53.9 FG%
Ohio State Bottoms Line:
The Buckeyes had a somewhat disappointing season but still finished in a first-place tie for the Big Ten title and made it to the conference championship game. The quartet of Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas, William Buford, and Aaron Craft do the heavy lifting for Ohio State, and they have routinely gotten little production from their bench.
Sullinger had another solid season and is a load in the post and on the glass. He consistently puts pressure on opposing defenses and boasts a solid free throw rate. Thomas has stepped up with an outstanding sophomore year, hitting over 61 percent from two-point range and scoring over 15 points per game. Buford has been somewhat inconsistent, and the Buckeyes are a different basketball team when he is on his game. The point guard position is in good hands with Craft, who has a solid assist rate and is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country.
Interestingly enough, Ohio State finished the season first in both offensive and defensive efficiency on KenPom, which in some ways bodes well for their tournament hopes. They Buckeyes have really missed the shooting of Jon Diebler and David Lighty, as they are making just 32.5 percent from beyond the arc. They do rank 12th in two-point shooting percentage and take great care of the basketball. Defensively, OSU rarely allows offensive rebounds and does a nice job keeping their opponents off the line. They also rank in the Top 60 in turnover rate and effective field goal percentage defense.
Ultimately, Ohio State’s key to a deep NCAA run is the play of Buford who needs to find his shooting stroke as his final trip to the Big Dance begins.
Cincinnati Bearcats Team Capsule
- Conference: Big East
- Record: 24-10 (12-6 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 7-3
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 7-6
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Connecticut, Georgetown (2), Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Syracuse
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Louisville, Marquette, South Florida, Syracuse, West Virginia, Xavier
- Player to Watch: Yancy Gates (6’9” F, Sr.) – 12.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg
Cincinnati Bottoms Line:
Give Mick Cronin and the Bearcats a ton of credit, because after a slow start and then the brawl against Xavier, it would have been easy for Cincinnati to go in the tank. However, they fought back to finish 12-6 in the Big East and made a run to the championship of the conference tournament.
Cronin essentially uses a six-man rotation, with five of those players scoring at least 9.2 points per game. Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with 14.3 points per contest, and backcourt mates Dion Dixon and Cashmere Wright both score at least 10 points with Wright leading the team in assists and steals. On the interior, Yancy Gates is playing the best basketball of his career and finished the regular season averaging 12.4 points and 9.2 rebounds. Throw in glue guys like Jaquon Parker and Justin Jackson, and you have a solid nucleus to count on.
From an efficiency standpoint, the Bearcats have an extremely low turnover rate, and rank inside the Top 40 in offensive rebounding percentage. However, their shooting percentages are pretty ugly, and they rarely get to the free throw line. On the defensive end, they have been victimized on the offensive glass, but they rarely give opponents free points by sending them to the free throw line. After such a strong performance in the Big East Tournament, the Bearcats should have plenty of confidence heading into the Big Dance.
East Region Bracket, TV Schedule, Sites, Announcers, Point Spreads
|1||#1 Syracuse def #16 UNC-Asheville 72-65||Thu, 3/15||3:05 ET||Pittsburgh||Harlan-Elmore||truTV||SU -17|
|2||#8 Kansas State def #9 Southern Miss 70-64||Thu, 3/15||12:40 ET||Pittsburgh||Harlan-Elmore||truTV||KST -6.5|
|3||#4 Wisconsin def #13 Montana 73-49||Thu, 3/15||2:10 ET||Albuquerque||Dedes-Wenzel||TNT||WIS -9.5|
|4||#5 Vanderbilt def #12 Harvard 79-70||Thu, 3/15||4:35 ET||Albuquerque||Dedes-Wenzel||TNT||VAN -6.5|
|5||#2 Ohio State def #15 Loyola (MD) 78-59||Thu, 3/15||9:45 ET||Pittsburgh||Harlan-Elmore||TNT||OSU -17.5|
|6||#7 Gonzaga def #10 West Virginia 77-54||Thu, 3/15||7:20 ET||Pittsburgh||Harlan-Elmore||TNT||Pick 'em|
|7||#3 Florida State def #14 St. Bonaventure 66-63||Fri, 3/16||2:40 ET||Nashville||Eagle-Spanarkel||CBS||FSU -6|
|8||#6 Cincinnati def #11 Texas 65-59||Fri, 3/16||12:15 ET||Nashville||Eagle-Spanarkel||CBS||CIN -2|
|9||#1 Syracuse def #8 Kansas State 77-59||Sat, 3/17||12:15 ET||Pittsburgh||Harlan-Elmore||CBS||SU -5|
|10||#4 Wisconsin def #5 Vanderbilt 60-57||Sat, 3/17||6:10 ET||Albuquerque||Dedes-Wenzel||TNT||VAN -1|
|11||#2 Ohio State def #7 Gonzaga 73-66||Sat, 3/17||2:45 ET||Pittsburgh||Harlan-Elmore||CBS||OSU -7.5|
|12||#3 Florida State v #6 Cincinnati||Sun, 3/18||9:40 ET||Nashville||Eagle-Spanarkel||TBS|
|13||#1 Syracuse v #4 Wisconsin||Thu, 3/22||Boston||SU -4|
|14||#2 Ohio State v Game 12 Winner||Thu, 3/22||Boston|
|ELITE 8 - REGIONAL FINAL|
|15||Game 13 Winner v Game 14 Winner||Sat, 3/24||Boston|