(2) Ohio State vs. (15) Loyola (Md.): East Region
Ohio State 27-7, 13-5 Big Ten (Regular-season Conference Champions)
Loyola (Md.) 24-8, 13-5 MAAC (Conference Tourney Champions)
Time: 9:50 p.m. Thursday
Location: Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Winner will face: (7) Gonzaga or (10) West Virginia, Saturday
Ohio State No. 7 AP; No. 7 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Ohio State 7
Line: Ohio State -17 (O/U 130)
Players to Watch
Ohio State: F Jared Sullinger, 6-9 So. (17.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 53.9% FG); G William Buford, 6-6 Sr. (14.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 35.4% 3s); F Deshaun Thomas, 6-7 So. (15.4 ppg, 5 rpg, 53.1% FG). Sullinger was nearly unstoppable in the Big Ten Tournament, going 28-for-50 from the field for 72 points in three games. Sullinger, who has at least 14 points and nine boards in his last five games, also had 27 boards, six steals and three assists during the run.
Loyola: F Erik Etherly, 6-7 Jr. (13.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 53.1% FG); G Dylan Cormier, 6-2 So. (13.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.6 spg); G R.J. Williams, 5-8 Fr. (4 ppg, 2.5 apg, 1.2 spg). Olson, who was named to the All-MAAC Tournament team, has a diverse offensive game, hitting 46.7 percent from the field, 77.8 from the foul line and 44.2 from the 3-point line.
Why Each Team is Dangerous
Ohio State: There isn’t a team in the country with two better finishers around the rim than Sullinger and Thomas. Ohio State shot 48.3 from the field, which is 16th-best in the country, from the floor. Despite lacking a true center, the Buckeyes out-rebounded their opponents by 7.2 boards per game this season. They also average 7.2 steals per game and turn the ball over just 11.6 times per contest.
Loyola: The Greyhounds are all about defense and rebounding. They are 14th in the country with a 38.8 percent offensive rebounding percentage and 26th with an 11.9 steal percentage. Their passive pressure defensive is effective, as is its half-court defense. Loyola averages 12 steals per game and holds opponents to 63.8 points per game, 42.8 percent from the floor and 34 percent from the 3-point line. The Greyhounds have three good scorers in Etherly, Cormier and Olson. Loyola is an very good free throw shooting team at 71.8 percent.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Ohio State: Unlike Buckeye teams of the past, there aren’t a lot of perimeter options for Ohio State. Buford can be great at times – and Thomas is effective from the outside – but the Buckeyes aren’t going to beat teams with the 3-point shot. They went just 165-for-506 from beyond the 3-point arc this season. Buford and Thomas have both struggled defensively at times against better offensive players. OSU also struggles from the foul line (69.8 percent). It won’t matter in this game, but it could down the line.
Loyola: The Greyhounds really struggled offensively (67.6 points, 42.8% FG, 34% 3s). Despite a slow pace, they still turn the ball over 13.5 times per game to just 12 assists. The ‘hounds really have no floor leader with their leader in assists, Williams, at just 2.5 per game.
The Bottom Line: The line is just about right. With all of the variables, my advice is stay away from this one.
The Pick: Ohio State 77, Loyola (Md.) 57
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 198-148-6 (Through Sunday, March 11)