Ohio has made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. After a second-half rally crunched a win over Virginia on Saturday, the Bobcats will face No. 5-seed Creighton on Monday.
The upset of Virginia has drawn the spotlight to the Bobcats, who now need to shut down the 5-seed just after sending the 4-seed Cavaliers home. Creighton is quick on its feet and relies on running up the score. The Bobcats match the offensive output, but Monday will show if they have any gas left in the tank.
Tipoff is slated for 6:10 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Below is a game day guide with how to follow along, highlights from Jeff Boals’ Sunday press conference, probable starting lineups and stat leaders, a rundown on Creighton, who has the edge and predictions for Monday.
How to follow along
Where to watch: Ohio’s game on Monday can be seen on TNT. Ian Eagle, Grant Hill and Jamie Erdahl will have the call.
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.
Jeff Boals’ news conference: When Jeff Boals met with the media on Sunday, his smile from the night before had yet to wear off. Boals was thrilled to defeat Virginia but in order to stay in the NCAA Tournament, the second-year coach knew it was time to look ahead to the Bluejays.
“They’re a great team,” Boals said. “I’ve watched a couple games, watched one last night, watched one this morning. And you know, there’s multiple threats out there.”
When Ohio (17-7) faced Virginia, it knew that it would have to play against a slower, more methodical team. Creighton is not like Virginia. The Bluejays prefer to run the court and put up points. Luckily for the Bobcats, their coach has seen this playstyle before.
“In a sense they remind me a lot of Toledo,” Boals said. “Very skilled. Multiple guys that can shoot the 3, 45% of their shots are 3-pointers. So, it’s a little different and since they want to get up and down a little bit more than Virginia does we’ve got to adjust and go back to some defensive principles that we normally do that we changed for the Virginia game.”
Ohio beat Virginia at its own game, so it’ll be interesting to see the Bobcats play a team with a playstyle that mirrors the type of play in the MAC. Boals won’t let that make Ohio comfortable, though. Ohio has gotten more press in the last two weeks than it’s been used to over the last decade. In order to stay in the Big Dance, Boals knows the Bobcats have to stay focused.
“I think that’s the biggest thing, are you mature enough to handle the success,” Boals said. “... We’ve talked about ‘cool gets ya beat,’ ‘Feeling comfortable gets ya beat’ and you can’t get comfortable.”
Probable starters and stats
00 Jason Preston
03 Ben Roderick
04 Dwight Wilson III
05 Ben Vander Plas
15 Lunden McDay
Stat leaders: Ohio’s lineup contributes from top to bottom but Jason Preston leads the Bobcats in points (16.8) and is sixth in the nation in assists per game (7.0). Dwight Wilson is who Ohio looks to dominate. Rightfully so too, he averages 7.5 boards a game and his 65.51 field goal percentage is third best in the country. The Bobcats average 80.1 points per game and it’s entire starting lineup averages double-digit scoring. Ben Vander Plas, Lunden McDay and Ben Roderick have all proven to be capable of heating up this season.
11 Marcus Zegarowski
13 Christian Bishop
34 Denzel Mahoney
23 Damien Jefferson
24 Mitch Ballock
Stat leaders: Zegarowski leads the Bluejays with an average 15.6 points per game, 4.48 assists per game and is shooting 41.5% beyond the arc this season. Bishop is the Bluejays’ reliable force up close, after shooting 67.5% from the field on 191 attempts this season. He has attempted a 3-pointer four times this season. Bishop also leads the Bluejays with an average of 6.1 rebounds per game.
All-time series: Ohio is 0-1 all-time against Creighton
Last time: This will be the first time the two teams will have met since the Kennedy administration. On Dec. 17, 1962, Ohio lost by an inch 77-75 in Omaha Civic Auditorium.
Creighton scouting: Ohio and Creighton follow two parallel playstyles. Rapid-fire offense and quick pace of play that is dependent on winning the rebound battle. The Bluejays average 76.5 points per game and have near identical shooting percentages to the Bobcats.
How Ohio wins: The Bobcats are used to high-scoring games from their conference schedule. They need to get ahead early and stay ahead. Easier said than done if Ohio doesn’t win the rebound battle.
Player to watch: Marcus Zegarowski. The junior guard has scored double digits in every game since Creighton’s win over Villanova in early February. Zegarowski averages 15.6 points per game and shoots 41.5% from the 3-point range. Ohio has to shut down Zegarowski if it wants to take a strong lead on Monday.
Who has the edge: To be successful in March, you need to have two things: momentum and elite guard play. Ohio has both. The Bobcats’ confidence couldn’t be higher after winning the MAC as a five seed and defeating the defending National Champion. Creighton is still trying to find its early season mojo. After barely scraping by against UConn in the Big East Tournament semifinal, the Bluejays were destroyed by Georgetown in the Championship 73-48. Creighton barely beat UC Santa Barbara 63-62 on Saturday. If the Bluejays don’t wake up, Ohio might finish the job.
J.L.: Creighton relies heavily on the 3-ball. The Bluejays make 36.4% of their 3-point attempts and when they’re hitting they’re tough to beat. But luckily for Ohio, Creighton has hit a cold streak from deep. The Bluejays haven’t surpassed the 30% threshold in their last three games and their offense is stuck in gear because of it.
Ohio, however, is shooting some of its best shots of the season. The Bobcats have gone a combined 24-of-63 (38%) from 3-point range over the last three games. With Vander Plas and Roderick ready to shoot at all times and Preston and Wilson prepared to deliver under the basket, Ohio’s offense is in a better spot for a shootout than Creighton’s is.
If the Bobcats can get off to a hot start, its defense has matured to the point where it keeps teams out of the game. Creighton is a good basketball team, but it picked the worst time of the year to struggle. Ohio paints this one Green and White 74-69.
Jack: Ohio’s well-balanced starting lineup is one of the keys to its success. Wilson can capitalize in the paint while Roderick and Vander Plas shoot from long-range. Preston can work from any position on the court and Lunden McDay is a predominant defensive force for the Bobcats.
Creighton is in a downswing. It escaped with a first round win over UC Santa Barbara by the skin of its teeth and was blown out by Georgetown in the Big East Tournament Championship. Not to the Bluejays’ discredit, they are still to be reckoned with.
Ohio needs to grab an early lead and never slow down. If Jason Preston continues to dominate on the court and the Bluejays are forced to play catch-up all game, Ohio can inch it out. The Bobcats win it 71-64.