What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of a blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Grant from Land-Grant Holy Land, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Ohio State.
1) Unlike past OSU teams, there doesn't really seem to be a superstar player on this team -- there's no D'Angelo Russell, no Evan Turner, no Mike Conley, no Greg Oden. Is it fair to say that it's a pretty balanced team? Who are the main threats that Iowa fans should be aware of heading into this game?
GRANT: Balanced is a fair adjective to describe Ohio State, as it has four players averaging between 10.5 and 12.9 points per game. (It should be noted that one of those players, sophomore forward Jae'Sean Tate, is out for the season with a shoulder injury.) Inefficient would also be a fair description of the Buckeyes' offense, as it is ranked in the bottom half of the Big Ten in points per game, field goal percentage, and 3-point shooting. Ohio State's efficiency numbers are nothing to be proud of, either.
Freshman point guard JaQuan Lyle owns the highest usage rate among the Buckeyes earning regular playing time, so stopping him -- in particular, halting his dribble drives -- will likely be priority numero uno for Iowa. Averaging nearly 16 points over his last six games, Lyle seems to have found at least some sort of a groove, and at 6-5 and 210 pounds, he finishes well through contact. Lyle is a non-threat as a shooter, though: he's converting just 39 percent of his field goal attempts, including 27 percent of his 3-point tries.
A pair of swingmen, Marc Loving and Keita Bates-Diop, also figure strongly into the mix for Ohio State on offense. Loving is coming off one of his best performances of the season, scoring 19 points (10/10 on free throws) in the Buckeyes' 81-62 setback to Michigan State on Tuesday. Bates-Diop, the team's leading rebounder at 6.6 boards per game, is one of the most talented players in the entire conference, but, like Loving, he struggles with consistency and assertiveness.
2) It's only been one game without him so far, but have you gotten a sense of how Ohio State is adapting to life without Jae'Sean Tate for the rest of the season?
GRANT: As juvenile as it sounds, Ohio State played really hard in its blowout loss to Michigan State. The Spartans made 14-of-22 from 3-point land, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. In addition to wanting to show out well for their lost teammate, the Buckeyes surely knew that the Michigan State game was a virtual must-win in regards to boosting their NCAA Tournament profile, so they played with urgency.
Thad Matta's teams always play hard, something Ohio State has continued to do this year (with a few exceptions) in spite of its struggles. But, the Buckeyes' offensive limitations will be further exploited without the post play and playmaking typically provided by Tate. Try as it may, I'd be shocked if Ohio State won either of its final two games vs. Iowa or at Michigan State.
3) Who's a guy who could come off the bench and make life miserable for Iowa in this game?
GRANT: Kam Williams is the classic trick-or-treat bench gunner; he has nearly as many zero-point showings (four) as games with 14-plus points performances (five). Averaging nearly eight points per game, the redshirt sophomore -- who has appeared in all 29 games but has started zero -- fails to offer much else aside from superb 3-point shooting (47 percent on 89 attempts), and unfortunately, his handle is too shaky for him to be a penetration threat -- which would be a more ideal use of his elite athleticism.
4) What will Ohio State look to do to take Jarrod Uthoff, Peter Jok, and the rest of the Hawkeye offense out of their rhythm in this game? (Not that it was in much of a rhythm a few nights ago against Wisconsin, but...)
GRANT: Ohio State's calling card is its defense, which has seemingly been the lone constant for the team. The Buckeyes have been ranked in the top 40 of KenPom's defensive efficiency rankings for most of the season, and their best chance to hang with the Hawkeyes is to turn the game into a rock fight.
With Bates-Diop, Loving, Lyle, and two solid defensive centers in Trevor Thompson and Daniel Giddens, Ohio State possesses the tall, rangy personnel that could cause problems for Iowa. Having said that, the Buckeyes are very, very young -- after Tate's injury, Matta's primary rotation consists of four freshmen, three sophomores, and one junior -- and if the Hawkeyes run their sets, screen hard, and stay disciplined with the ball, they should create their fair share of open looks.
5) What does Ohio State need to do to make the NCAA Tournament? Make the Big Ten Tournament final? Win the Big Ten Tournament?
GRANT: In order to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, the Buckeyes need to beat Iowa and Michigan State to close their regular-season slate and at least reach the finals of the Big Ten Tournament. Doing that still may not be enough, so winning the whole enchilada in Indy is the safer bet.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
GRANT: Iowa 75, Ohio State 68. Hawkeyes cover and win outright.
Thanks for being a good sport, Grant, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped tomorrow. You can check out the LGHL crew at Land-Grant Holy Land. You can also follow LGHL on Twitter at @Landgrant33. The Iowa-Ohio State game is in Columbus, OH, on Sunday, February 28, and is scheduled to start at approximately 3:00 pm CT, with TV coverage from CBS.