When: Friday March 22, 7:15 PM
Where: Dayton, OH
Norfolk State and Lehigh made all the noise last year when it came to epic upsets, will the trend continue you this year and is Iona the most likely fifteen seed to come away with the upset? Or will Ohio State make their way back to the Final Four with a veteran laden group?
Credentials: The Gaels cut it on during the end of the season and even have a good luck charm in their back pocket. In a stretch in February, Iona dropped six out of seven games. Tim Cluess switched up the wardrobe and has his staff wearing sweatsuits in support of Cystic Fibrosis. Iona now finds themselves on a five game winning streak, including taking down Canisius, Niagara, and Manhattan in route to the MAAC title.
Talent: Iona got to March a year ago with more talent, but the Gaels still sport plenty of it this year. Lamont "Momo" Jones leads the way for the MAAC champs. Jones is an Arizona transfer who has been asked to up his scoring production. The senior has certainly responded averaging 23 points per game this year, which is tops in the MAAC and third in the country. The Gaels also have scoring threats in Sean Armand and David Laury, as the two have combined for nearly 30 points per game this year. Laury can also crash the glass, as he averages over 10 rebounds per game.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Credentials: Thad Matta's squad seemed to get lost in the Big Ten this year, despite being ranked in the Top 15 nearly all season and having a tremendous season. The Buckeyes finished the year with a 26-7 mark, a Big Ten title, and ranked seventh in the final Top 25 poll. Ohio State has won eight games in a row, including victories over Indiana, Michigan State, and Wisconsin.
Talent: Yes, Aaron Craft is still with the Buckeyes and he could be the difference in another Final Four run. While Craft only averages 10 points per game, he's what you want in a point guard this time of year. Simply put, the veteran point guard takes care of the basketball and he finished second in the Big Ten in assists this year. The main guy Craft is dishing the ball to is the Big Ten's leading scoring Deshaun Thomas. Thomas finished they year averaging just under 20 points per game and he's the kind of scorer who can just take over a game, especially this time of year.
Bottom Line: Iona is going to need all of their scorers to go off at once against a stout Ohio State defense. Both teams have a lot of talent, but Ohio State certainly has a better pedigree. I think the Buckeyes may run into some trouble, but expect them to pull away in the second half.
Ohio State 80, Iona 67