At one point this season, the Ohio State Buckeyes were ranked No. 8 in the nation and they had a real chance at winning the Big Ten. They still had a chance toward the end of the season to win the conference, but they did not hold their own fate and Michigan State did not falter and won the title. Still though, they finished 15-3 in the league and came in second place. They had their struggles down the stretch, losing three of their last five games, two of those to Penn State. This Ohio State team is trending in the wrong direction.
With all of that being said, the Buckeyes earned a five-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Being a five-seed puts you against a 12-seed and the most notorious upset game in the bracket. Since 2010, the 12-seed has upset the five-seed 13 times and there have only been four years since 1985 that a five-seed was not upset. It is almost a guarantee that a 12-seed pulls off a victory.
As long as that trend continues, it looks like a 12-seed will win again this year and the Buckeyes could very well be on the wrong side of that game. My theory as to why the 12-seed has been so successful is because that team tends to be on a hot streak going into the tournament. A 12-seed is typically a mid-major team that had to win their conference tournament in order to dance and is playing their best basketball of the season. Many times a five-seed is a team that could have been seeded a little higher and faltered down the stretch, therefore not playing their best basketball and vulnerable to a hot team. Hence the reason why their are so many 12 over five upsets. One team is on the rise and the other on the fall down, some March Madness magic.
In the Buckeyes case, they seem to be trending very down and their opponent, the South Dakota State Jack Rabbits, are trending up. South Dakota State is also no surprise to be in the tournament. In fact, this is their third straight appearance in the big dance. They have yet to win a game, but this year seems like their best opportunity.
Part of the reason why South Dakota State has such a good chance at beating Ohio State is Mike Daum. The now two-time Summit League Player of the Year is averaging 23.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. He can score in every different way and he has the size to be a mismatch, even against Power Five conference teams. At 6’9″, he is a defensive game plan head ache. He can beat you down low and he also shoots it at 41 percent from three. An all-around really good, NBA caliber basketball player. A hot mid-major team is prime to upset a higher seed, a hot mid-major team with an NBA caliber player is definitely a prime threat to upset a higher seed.
As I have said before, Ohio State will only go as far as Keita Bates-Diop takes them and in NCAA Tournament games you need more than one player. You can have an offensive juggernaut carry you Kemba Walker or Shabazz Napier style, but those title teams played exceptional team defense, something that the Buckeyes do not do. Bates-Diop is a great talent and this Ohio State team has out performed all expectations all year long, it might just be time for all of that to come to an end.