It’s March Madness time and anything’s possible this time of year. That being said, the 10th seeded Ohio State Buckeyes (23-10) have a favorable match up when they take on the 7 seed VCU Rams (26-9) in Portland, Oregon on Thursday.
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The Rams rely heavily on scoring from Traevon Graham (16.2 ppg), who most recently dropped 20 on the Flyers in the A-10 title game. They also rely on a steady contribution from 6’3″ guard Melvin Johnson, which shouldn’t be a problem with the amount of minutes he eats on average (27.5). No matter who they put on the floor, VCU will be ready under the coaching of Shaka Smart. Smart (163-55) is no stranger to the NCAA Tourney, as this will be his 5th appearance in the Big Dance, including a Final Four appearance in 2011.
The Buckeyes have seen zone defenses like the Rams run during the Big Ten season, including a successful outing against the Maryland Terrapins in January. The Rams are a much smaller and slower team than Maryland, and D’Angelo Russel will have success penetrating the zone defense, but the Buckeyes need a solid outing from Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott and Marc Loving if they want to put the game away early. The Atlantic 10 is not known for having deep rotations in their squads, so Ohio State needs to set the tone against the Rams early and establish the up-tempo game that we’ve seen in the past. I see Marc Loving (9.7 PPG) having a big impact inside and dominating the glass. And DeAngelo Russel will be, well, DeAngelo Russel. Coach Matta should have the boys ready and focused to move on to the Second Round.
My prediction: Ohio State 76, VCU 62.
It should be a hard fought game, but I think the Buckeyes have too deep of a rotation and too much talent for VCU to handle, Ohio State will likely move on to face Arizona in the second round.
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