There are 16 “Round of 32” games on Saturday and Sunday as the most exciting weekend of the sports calendar continues. As we always do every March here at MSF, we try to cover you with previews, informed and reasoned predictions, and pertinent viewing info as soon as we can get it posted.
In this post, we preview the East Region’s second round matchup between #2 Ohio State and the 7th-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Ohio State-Gonzaga Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #2 Ohio State v #7 Gonzaga in East Region
- Ohio State-Gonzaga Date: Saturday, 3/17
- Ohio State-Gonzaga Tip Time: 2:45 ET
- Ohio State-Gonzaga Location: Pittsburgh
- Ohio State-Gonzaga TV: CBS
- Ohio State-Gonzaga Announcers: Kevin Harlan and Len Elmore
- Ohio State-Gonzaga Point Spread: Ohio State -7.5
- Tickets: Ohio State-Gonzaga Tickets
- Tickets: East Regional Tickets in Atlanta
Ohio State-Gonzaga Analysis and Prediction
On Thursday night, Gonzaga blew out West Virginia, and Ohio State did the same against Loyola (MD) to set up a second round matchup between the two schools. The Zags jumped out to a big lead and never looked back, as the team made 9-of-17 from three point range and four players scored in double figures. The Buckeyes got 31 points and 12 rebounds from sophomore Deshaun Thomas in a 19-point victory over the Greyhounds.
Ohio State finished the season as the top-rated team in terms of defensive efficiency, but they should be challenged by a balanced Gonzaga attack that boasts talented frontcourt players like Robert Sacre, Elias Harris, and Sam Dower to go with sharpshooters Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell in the backcourt.
The two key areas to watch will be OSU’s three-point defense and its ability to force turnovers. If Pangos and the Bulldogs started hitting from long range, it will open up more space on the interior for their big men to operate. That could in turn put Jared Sullinger in more situations to pick up fouls, which Ohio State cannot afford.
Led by Aaron Craft’s on-ball pressure, Ohio State ranks in the Top 50 in turnover rate, but the Bulldogs are in the middle of the pack offensively in that category. Gonzaga also rates as one of the top teams in terms of free throw rate, but the Buckeyes are among the best at keep their opponents off the stripe. Obviously something has to give there.
On the other end of the floor, look for Ohio State to pound it inside, because despite Gonzaga’s size, they allow opponents to shoot over 46 percent on two-pointers, while the Buckeyes make nearly 54 percent inside the arc. Don’t expect many turnovers though, as Ohio State doesn’t give it away, and Gonzaga doesn’t take it either.
Instead, offensive rebounding will be key for the Buckeyes. They rank in the Top 50 in offensive rebounding percentage, but Gonzaga is in the Top 50 in defensive rebounding percentage. As a point of comparison, the Zags allowed West Virginia to grab 10 of their 33 misses on Thursday, and the Mountaineers came in with roughly the same offensive rebounding percentage as Ohio State. If OSU can get to double-digits in second chance points, I like their chances to advance.
Gonzaga turned in one of the first round’s best performances, but I think Ohio State’s pressure and experience in the backcourt will be too much as the frontcourts cancel each other out. Deshaun Thomas has also been fantastic down the stretch, and he’ll be a tough matchup for the Bulldogs.
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.
Gonzaga Bulldogs Team Capsule
- Conference: West Coast
- Record: 25-6 (13-3 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 8-2
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 5-4
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: BYU (2), Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, Xavier
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: BYU, Michigan State, Saint Mary’s (2)
- Player to Watch: Kevin Pangos (6’1” G, Fr.) – 13.8 ppg, 3.4 apg, 1.2 spg, 40.5 3P%
Gonzaga Bottoms Line:
The Zags were once a Cinderella story, but they have since become a perennial tournament team. Four players score in double figures, led by freshman Kevin Pangos, who has a sweet stroke from beyond the arc and has proven to be an able passer as well.
Gonzaga boasts a number of talented frontcourt options as well with Elias Harris (13.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 50.5 FG%), Robert Sacre (11.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 50.5 FG%), and Sam Dower (8.5 ppg, 3.7 mpg, 54.6 FG%) all contributing from game-to-game. All three are consistent contributors on the glass, and Sacre has an absurdly good 89.4 free throw rate.
The Bulldogs can shoot it well both inside and outside the arc, and they rank fifth nationally in free throw rate. They are solid on defense as well, and they do a particularly nice job of limiting offensive rebounds against them and not putting their opponents on the line.
Related: Jump to our East Region Bracket Breakdown