PREVIEW: Ohio State and Iowa State face off in NCAA Tournament
Who: No. 11 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Iowa State.
Where: BOK Center -- Tulsa, Oklahoma.
When: Friday, 9:50 p.m. EST.
TULSA, Okla. -- It was a regular season that started with a bang and finished with a limp for the Ohio State men's basketball team.
The Buckeyes launched the season with a 64-56 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats and entered the new year with a 12-1 record. The rest of the regular season was not as smooth. Ohio State lost five straight conference games in January and alternated between quality wins and poor losses in February. The Buckeyes then went to the Big Ten tournament on a three-game skid amid a Kaleb Wesson suspension.
Ohio State's first-round matchup versus Indiana in the conference tournament was widely seen as a play-in game for both teams. Kaleb Wesson scored 17 in his first game back and Keyshawn Woods scored 18 in a 79-75 win.
The Buckeyes fell the next day to Michigan State, but Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann was confident about his team's NCAA Tournament future.
"I feel good about it," Holtmann said after his team's 77-70 loss to Michigan State. "Who knows what can happen, but I feel like our body of work has positioned us very, very well."
Ohio State learned Sunday night that they would head to Tulsa, Oklahoma to face Iowa State — the Big 12 tournament champions.
"You have to recognize how much confidence they're playing with right now," Holtmann said. "The reality is they're playing as good as a handful of teams in the country."
IOWA STATE PREVIEW
The No. 6 Iowa State Cyclones are fresh off of three straight wins and a Big 12 tournament championship. Lindell Wigginton scored 17 off the bench and three other Cyclones scored in double digits as Iowa State cruised to a 78-66 win over Kansas in the title game.
This is head coach Steve Prohm's third trip to the NCAA Tournament with Iowa State in his four years at the helm. The Cyclones reached the Sweet 16 in Prohm's first season and the Round of 32 in year two.
Iowa State's success largely rests upon the shoulders of their offense. They enter the NCAA Tournament averaging 77.4 points per game. The Cyclones are No. 17 in the country in points per possession and No. 9 in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency.
Four players average double figures in points for Iowa State with Marial Shayok leading the way at 18.6 points per game.
In preparation for the Buckeyes, the Cyclones are focusing on Ohio State forward Kaleb Wesson.
"They have a pretty dominant big man," Shayok said. "That's one of our main focuses this week of making it tough for him."
While Ohio State's offense has struggled this year, their specialty has been their play in the paint.
"We can't get spread out," Prohm said. "We've got to guard the post, ball screen defense and finish plays."
Opposing teams average 68.3 points per game against an Iowa State defense that ranks No. 141 in opponent 3-point shooting.
OHIO STATE PREVIEW
No. 11 Ohio State is 1-4 in their previous five games, with their sole win coming in the Big Ten tournament versus Indiana.
Holtmann has made the NCAA Tournament in both seasons as Ohio State's head coach. Ohio State defeated South Dakota State last year before losing to Gonzaga in the Round of 32.
The Big Ten is known for tough defense, and Ohio State is no exception. The Buckeyes rank No. 27 nationally in defensive efficiency. That defense will have their hands full against an efficient Iowa State offense.
"They're a great offensive team," Ohio State guard Keyshawn Woods said. "They play real, real fast. They have every piece that you can have on a basketball team."
The offense has been a much different story for Holtmann's squad. Only two players, Kaleb Wesson and CJ Jackson, average double digit scoring per game. Ohio State ranks No. 192 in turnover percentage, No. 202 in offensive rebound percentage, No. 155 in points per possession and No. 170 in 3-point shooting percentage.
Ohio State is 6-0 all-time versus Iowa State. The most recent matchup came in the 2013 NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Ohio. The Buckeyes won 78-75 for a trip to the Sweet 16.
KEYS TO THE GAME
The Buckeyes enter Friday night's matchup as 6.5-point underdogs. This is an Iowa State team that is on a roll and have collected a number of quality wins in recent weeks.
For Ohio State, they have to shoot the ball better than they did down the final stretch of the regular season. The Buckeyes have to be able to keep pace with the Cyclones high-powered offense in order to compete in this game.
One area Ohio State can look to capitalize is in offensive rebounding. Iowa State is No. 165 nationally in offensive rebounding and No. 244 in opponent offensive rebounding. If the Buckeyes can out-work the Cyclones on the offensive glass, there is a path to the Round of 32.
For Iowa State, it is their defense. Prohm emphasized Thursday the improvement of his team's defense during the Big 12 tournament. If the Cyclones can force Ohio State into foul trouble and make the Buckeyes work outside of the paint, the Iowa State offense should be able to take care of the rest.
Prediction: Iowa State 74, Ohio State 67