Iowa (13-5) at Ohio State (13-4)
Date: January 22, 2013
Time: 5:30 pm CT
Location: Value City Arena, Columbus
Line: Ohio State -11
Iowa follows up a crucial Saturday win over Wisconsin with a road game against #14 Ohio State. The Buckeyes, a preseason top 5 team, have had an odd run so far this season: They don't have any terrible losses -- Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, and Illinois, with only Kansas coming at home -- but they only have one win over a team in the Kenpom top 65, a three-point home win over Michigan. Iowa will either be another quality loss or the second-best win in the Buckeyes' season-to-date.
No Iowa opponent has been so dependent on one player for scoring as Ohio State. Deshaun Thomas, a 6'7 junior forward, is averaging 20.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He's been remarkably consistent, scoring at least 14 points in every game so far this season, and 20 or more in each of OSU's five Big Ten games. He can score from inside and outside, though, surprisingly, he does not get to the free throw line often. Stopping Thomas doesn't necessarily correlate with beating Ohio State, though; he's averaged 21.0 in the Buckeyes' four losses.
Thad Matta rotates eight players, with another two used sporadically. Aside from Thomas, only junior guard Lenzelle Smith (10.1 ppg, 42.0% 3PP) is averaging double-digits. Aaron Craft (8.7 ppg, 4.7 apg) is still the straw that stirs the drink -- and still infuriating -- though sophomore Shannon Scott has been effective as his backup. They aren't big; there isn't a player over 6'8 who is getting more than 15 minutes a game. They are, however, a matchup issue for most opponents due to a plethora of 6'7-ish wing types who can shoot from everywhere.
Ohio State's Kenpom numbers are remarkable for the fact that the Buckeyes do nothing particularly poorly. OSU is 19th nationally in offensive efficiency. Much like Wisconsin, they do not turn the ball over -- Ohio State commits turnovers on just one out of every six possessions, and have it stolen just 6.6% of the time -- and shoot well enough from the outside to avoid blocked shots. The Buckeyes do not get fouled at a high rate, again in large part due to their focus on the perimeter, and they don't shoot well from the charity stripe when they are fouled.
Defensively, Ohio State ranks eighth nationally in efficiency, and limit opponents to a 43.4% effective field goal rate. Despite lacking of an inside presence, OSU holds two-point shooting below 42 percent through tenacious man-to-man defense on the perimeter. While the Buckeyes aren't a particularly great overall rebounding team, they do an excellent job on the defensive boards.
McCaffery has never beaten Ohio State in his time at Iowa. In fact, Iowa hasn't defeated OSU since February 2, 2008, and hasn't won at Value City Arena since the final regular season game of the 2005-06 season. McCaffery's teams have lost to Ohio State by an average of 19 points. Aside from the Northwestern game, Iowa has not been particularly compelling on the road. And there isn't a player on Iowa's roster who is a natural fit for guarding Thomas (Marble gives up size; White and Basabe might not be able to hang with him on the perimeter without giving up the inside to the rest of OSU's slashers). I could see McCaffery letting Thomas get his 25 points and stopping everything else, but that still requires that the Hawkeyes score in bunches against a defense that pushes teams outside.
And yet, Iowa's size gives them a chance. If the guards can protect the ball and get inside, White and Woodbury could have a field day against the soft underbelly of Ohio State's defensive shell. Throw in the fact that the Hawkeyes' perimeter defense turned another ball control offense -- Wisconsin was the nation's best team at preventing steals until Saturday -- into a turnover machine this weekend, and there is a narrow route to victory.