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Why Ohio can upset Virginia

Ohio has seemingly everything going its way. Can it finish the job on Saturday?

NCAA Basketball: MAC Conference Tournament - Ohio vs Buffalo Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The bracket is out, and I know you’re looking for that big upset pick. Look no further than the 13-4 game at the top of the bracket. The Ohio Bobcats were a surprise winner of the MAC, taking the title in Cleveland as a 5 seed, and can beat Virginia in the First Round.

Here’s why the Bobcats can beat the Cavaliers:

They’re on a roll

Ohio is 9-1 in its last 10 games, with its only loss being to Buffalo, which it eventually beat in the MAC Championship. The Bobcats weathered a COVID pause in February, but came back without missing a beat. Four of their 10 wins since Jan. 16 have come against top-100 KenPom teams.

Jason Preston is a stud and he has plenty around him

In order for Ohio to win the MAC Tournament, Jason Preston needed to play well, and the team followed his cue. Preston was just a few blocks away from a 5x5, dropping 22 points, six rebounds, seven assists and five steals in the championship game. His scoring led the team, but the Bobcats had three players with 15-plus points in their 84-point output against Buffalo. Preston led the team with 22.7 points per game during the tournament, with four of their five starters averaging in double figures, and the fifth averaging 9.7 points per game.

The scoring for the Bobcats really is a team effort with Preston as the leader. According to KenPom, Ohio has the 29th-best offense in the country, scoring 113.7 points per 100 possessions. They’re not necessarily a fast-paced team, but sit in the top half of the country in tempo, averaging 69.3 possessions per game. They’ll need to try to play their brand of basketball, though, as Virginia ranks dead last in tempo by almost two possessions per game. For Ohio to win, it needs to take control of the ballgame, and speeding up possessions is a way to do that. Due to the difference in tempo, Ohio averages 13 more points per game than Virginia, scoring upwards of 80 per game. If the Bobcats can make this a first-to-80 shootout, they’ll definitely be at an advantage.

Virginia’s COVID-19 concerns

Outside of everything on the court, Virginia is dealing with COVID issues off the court. The Cavaliers had to withdraw from the ACC tournament, which in a way could’ve been good for them since they didn’t have to play three games in consecutive days. They’re sitting in Charlottesville in quarantine now, and don’t plan on going to Indianapolis until Friday. They’re still not completely sure who will be able to compete in the First Round — or even if the team will be able to play at all. Who knows? We could see a crew of bench-warmers starting a tournament game against a full-strength Ohio squad. The Cavaliers have a day to determine if they will be able to field a team.

Bringing it all together, Ohio not only has success in the tournament as a program — they made it all the way to the Sweet 16 in 2012, losing to top-seeded North Carolina — but is a team built for success in March. Don’t pass up on the Bobcats and miss out on a chance at a perfect bracket.