Coming from a family full of University of Dayton alumni, I know Thursday is the day they have been waiting for. Like all Ohio schools, Dayton constantly cries out for a chance to take on the “Big Brother”. Thursday they will get their chance to play The Ohio State University.
Over the last several decades, Ohio State has constantly dodged fellow Ohio universities when it comes to basketball scheduling. The reason for this is quite obvious, what does Ohio State have to gain by giving one of the “other ” Ohio schools a spot on the schedule? Ohio State does not need UD, UC, OU, Toledo, Miami, Bowling Green or Xavier to help boost it’s strength of schedule, but those schools all need OSU in order to boost theirs. If Ohio State agrees to play one of those schools, it’s a lose-lose scenario. If OSU wins, they get criticized for scheduling “weak” competition, if they lose they will be bashed for losing to “weak” competition. This is one of the many reasons why the NCAA tournament is the greatest tournament in American sports, it creates matchups that otherwise would not happen.
Obviously there are plenty of story lines heading into Thursday’s game. Archie Miller coaching under Thad Matta for two seasons, Archie’s brother Sean being eliminated from the NCAA tournament twice in the last 7 years at the hands of Thad Matta, and of course Jordan Sibert transferring from OSU to Dayton after not being happy with playing time in Columbus.
Of all of these stories, the only one that will actually have an impact on the game is Jordan Sibert. Since leaving OSU two years ago, Sibert has emerged as a team-leader for Dayton while averaging 13 points per game. Sibert’s strength is 3-point shooting, which happens to be Ohio State’s most glaring area of need. It would be ironic to see Sibert’s 3-point shooting bring OSU’ season to an end this week, after being told he wasn’t good enough to play major minutes at Ohio State. If Sibert gets hot on Thursday, it will be very difficult for Ohio State to come out on top. Sibert has connected on four or more 3-pointers in game eight times this year, OSU’s starting guards have only done it eight times combined. If the game turns into a shootout, the edge goes to Dayton.
Ohio State fans love to appear 100% confident when their school matches up with another Ohio college in any sport, well that confidence is a facade. As I said in the beginning, OSU is supposed to win these games – they have the money, the facilities, the 5-star recruits and big-name coaches. Fans believe there is no way OSU should ever lose to a team with less talent, less experienced coaches, lower rated recruits and no winning tradition. But what happens if OSU does lose one of these games? This is the question all Ohio State fans and players quietly ask themselves. For me personally, it will make for an awful Easter and Christmas dinner with the relatives. For OSU, it could mean in-state recruits looking at other Ohio options a bit closer before automatically ranking OSU as the #1 choice. It’s safe to assume that every Ohio fan-base and University outside of Columbus will be rooting for the Flyers at 12:15 on Thursday, with hopes of the recruiting doors opening for the smaller programs.
A glance at the game:
- Key player for Ohio State: Lenzelle Smith
Smith will need to make shots to match Sibert. Smith is shooting 40% in OSU wins, and 25% in losses.
- Key player for Dayton: Jordan Sibert
Sibert will need to fight the urge to single-handedly lead the Flyers. If he can manage the nerves and make shots it could lead to a Dayton win.
- Under the radar player for Ohio State: Sam Thompson
If Thompson can continue to penetrate and create shots, it adds another dimension to the less than impressive OSU offense.
- Under the radar player for Dayton: Jalen Robinson
Robinson is a Columbus native who comes off the bench for UD. He has the ability to play inside as well as step out and shoot from behind the arc. Ohio State lacks interior play, so Robinson could make a difference.
The experience of Thad Matt and the OSU players should give them a slight advantage in this game. The Flyers have not been played in many marquee games, and Archie Miller has never coached in a game like this. I’ll take Ohio State by a score of 71-60, advancing them to a likely match up with Syracuse in what could be the lowest scoring NCAA tournament game in several years.
The greatest day of his life up to this point was the day of the 2003 OSU BCS win over Miami in Tempe, AZ. He was in attendance thanks to the OSU student lottery and will never forget that game.
He'll be getting married in September, so his wife will make sure he edits the prior sentence to become "the second greatest day of his life...."