After almost a decade of waiting, Ohio is back in The Big Dance. The Bobcats’ first-round opponent, Virginia, is the reigning NCAA Tournament champion and has the arsenal capable of tearing them apart.
Saturday night’s game is a clash of playstyles. Ohio coach Jeff Boals has crafted a team that runs games on its own tempo and has the 17th-highest scoring offense in the NCAA. Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett has spent his 12 years in Charlottesville perfecting a pack line defense that strangles high-scoring opponents.
The Bobcats are clear in their goals. They want to make waves, but like in the Mid-American Conference Tournament, there’s no margin for error. An off-night means a bus ride back to Athens.
Ohio might still have another upset up its sleeve, though. Virginia was struck with COVID-19 last week and only arrived in Indianapolis on Friday afternoon. Practices for the Cavaliers have been denied due to quarantine, and were only allowed limited conditioning and shooting sessions.
Tipoff is slated for 7:15 p.m. in Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana.
Below is a game day guide to follow along, check stat leaders and potential starters, a breakdown of the Cavaliers and who has the edge on both offense and defense.
How to follow along
Where to watch: Ohio’s game on Saturday can be watched on truTV or online here.
How to listen: Russ Eisenstein and Rob Cornelius will be behind the mic broadcasting the game on the Ohio IMG Sports Network. The broadcast is available online here.
Probable starters and stats
00 Jason Preston
03 Ben Roderick
04 Dwight Wilson III
05 Ben Vander Plas
15 Lunden McDay
Stat leaders: Preston leads in points per game (17.1), assists per game (6.9) and is second in rebounds per game (6.7) and field goal percentage (53.6). Wilson’s 66.51 field goal percentage is the second-highest in the nation, and he leads the Bobcats in rebounds per game (7.6).
00 Kihei Clark
02 Reece Beekman
10 Sam Hauser
25 Trey Murphy III
30 Jay Huff
Stat leaders: Huff is shooting 60 percent from the field this season. He averages 13.13 points per game and 7.13 rebounds per game. Hauser leads with a 43.4 shooting percentage from beyond the arc and falls just behind Huff when shooting from the field. Clark tops the roster with 4.58 assists per game.
All-time series: Ohio leads 2-1.
Last time: The Bobcats pulled out a 78-72 win in The Convo over the Cavaliers on Feb. 26, 2003.
Virginia scouting: The past week hasn’t been kind to Virginia. A positive COVID-19 test last week shut down operations in the middle of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament and prevented any practice outside of conditioning and shooting sessions.
How Ohio wins: Ohio needs to exploit Virginia’s lack of practice and win the rebound battle. Easier said than done. The Cavaliers are among the best defensive teams in the nation. Virginia holds opponents to an average of 60.5 points per game and averages 31.8 rebounds per game. Ohio has improved its rebounding abilities since late January, and Saturday is the litmus test.
Player to watch: Sam Hauser. He’s the most accurate 3-point shooter in the ACC with a 43.4 shooting percentage beyond the arc. Hauser averages 16 points per game and is shooting 51.8 percent from the field. Ohio may have a hard time shutting him down if Virginia isn’t as out of shape as expected.
Who has the edge?
Offense: Ohio averages 80.6 points per game and shooting 48.9 percent from the field. The starting five is well-balanced, and the bench has gotten deeper in recent weeks. Ohio has reliable off-the-bench muscle in freshman Mark Sears, who averages 8.8 points per game and 47.5 percent from the field.
Defense: Another no-brainer. Virginia allows the sixth-fewest points per game in the nation, and averages 31.8 rebounds per game. The Cavaliers like to take it slow and drain the life out of their opponents. No team has put up 70 or more points on Virginia since Florida State in mid-February.