Greetings Hoops Fans, this is Dave Horning with HoopsOnLane.com Fan Podcast with a preview of the next Ohio State Buckeyes Men’s basketball game – a re-match against the Bulldogs, or “Zags” as they are also often called, of Gonzaga University. This is a Second Round game in the NCAA Tournament – March Madness is alive and well in Columbus Ohio this Saint Patrick’s Day weekend. The game will be played at the Taco Bell Arena in Boise Idaho – Tip-Off is 7:45pm, approximately, depending on the earlier game between Kentucky and Buffalo finishing on schedule and not going into overtime. The game will be televised on CBS and on radio at The Fan 97.1 FM.

About a year ago, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are the team that played the University of North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA National Championship Final game – losing on April 3rd by a score of 65-71. The Bulldogs are bringing back just two starters from that Championship game starting lineup … Number 3 – 6-9 Senior Forward Johnathan Williams, their leading scorer and Number 13 – 6-3 Junior Guard Josh Perkins, their assist leader.

The rest of the starting lineup will be:
Number 33 – 6-10 Sophomore Forward Killian Tillie
Number 24 – 6-6 Freshman Forward Corey Kispert
and, finally, Number 0 – 6-4 Senior Guard Silas Melson

Watch for these subs:
Number 24 – 6-8 Sophomore Forward Rui Hatchimura from Toyoma, Japan, and
Number 23 – 6-5 Redshirt Freshman Guard Zack Norvell

The Bulldogs, or Zags, as they are more commonly called, are a very well balanced scoring team – with 5 players averaging in double figures and a sixth, Silas Melson, averaging 9.4 points – that is almost 6 players averaging double figures – very impressive.

Their height on the front line is also impressive, going 6-10, 6-9 and 6-6 or 6-8, and with guards that are 6-5, 6-4 and 6-3.

Their record of 31 wins against 4 losses is also very impressive, but the Team Rankings Website of all 351 Division 1 Men’s Basketball teams is NOT impressed – the Zags are ranked Number 21 and Ohio State is ranked Number 20 – and the NCAA committee has made them Number 4 seed to Ohio State’s Number 5 seed – these teams are closer in ability than I expected or would have guessed.

The teams played earlier this season on November 23rd as part of the PK80 Classic – a tournament set up to celebrate Nike Founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday. The game was played after Thanksgiving and after midnight – so there probably weren’t many Buckeyes fans watching.

It was essentially an away game – Gonzaga University is located in Spokane, Washington, and that game was played in Portland, Oregon – a west coast friendly crowd.

But the Buckeyes came out strong early in the game, leading 14-10 after the first 5 minutes and 25-24 after the first 9 minutes. Mussa Jallow had started the game and was playing great – he had made 2 of 3 3-point shots in those first 9 minutes, and had added a dunk. But he would not score again the rest of the game. Kaleb Wesson started for the Buckeyes because the regular starter back then, Micah Potter, was injured and could not play.

At the 7:48 mark in the first half, Kaleb Wesson made two free throws to bring Ohio State to within 2 points – 31-33. However, the Buckeyes did not score the rest of the first half – going cold and missing all 0 of their remaining shots that half. It wasn’t until 2 minutes into the second half before Ohio State scored again, and by then, the score was Gonzaga 47 Ohio State 33.

Gonzaga just steadily pulled away with excellent shooting – making 19 of 28 2-point shots for 68% and 12 of 25 3-point shots for 48%.

Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins was great from the 3-point line – taking all of his 9 shots from behind the 3-point arc and making 6 of them. The one right before halftime crushed the Buckeyes’ spirit. The Buckeyes weren’t tough back then.

Ohio State shot 13 of 35 on 2-point shots for 37% and 6 of 20 on 3-point shots for 30%. Keita Bates-Diop was held to just 7 points, and spent a lot of time that game playing Center. Keita only attempted 1 3-point shot. He was just not yet ready for prime time, not ready to be the team leader.

Gonzaga played zone defense against the Buckeyes – will they do that again?

Ohio State’s starting lineup back then featured Mussa Jallow starting at Guard and Kam Williams coming off the bench. So, this Buckeyes team has changed a lot since November.

But Gonzaga has changed and improved also – especially with Rui Hatchimura coming off the bench and averaging in double figures.

November 23rd, 2017 – Final Score: Gonzaga 86 Ohio State 59 – a solid and very impressive win for Gonzaga.

Gonzaga has impressed ESPN’s “Bracketology” expert Joe Lunardi – who assessed Gonzaga’s chances in the NCAA Tournament and started right out saying that he expected them to beat Number 1 Seeded Xavier in the Sweet Sixteen game – skipping over entirely the first two games. He ignored North Carolina Greensboro and the Buckeyes chances – didn’t even mention these first two opponents. Lunardi went on to pick the Zags beating North Carolina in the Elite Eight game and advancing to the Final Four. What a set-up! I think Gonzaga might have been a little overconfident going into its first round game.

On Thursday night – when the Buckeyes had their hands full with SDSU , Gonzaga had its hands full also – with #13 seeded North Carolina Greensboro.

Gonzaga shot poorly Thursday night – making only 5 of 23 3-point shots for 22%. North Carolina Greensboro was worse – making only 3 of 22 for 14% – they could have beaten Gonzaga.

Both teams played poorly and deserved to lose – scoring 68 points and 64 points. If Gonzaga shoots this poorly against the Buckeyes, we will win – but don’t expect that to happen. The North Carolina Greensboro game was a huge wakeup call, and Gonzaga will be fully engaged against the Buckeyes.

But Ohio State will have both big men available, Kaleb Wesson and Micah Potter, so Keita can play away from the basket and get more open shots. In this coming game, there are no easy keys to identify – good shooting is of course important, but Gonzaga is very balanced, so an off night for one player should not affect the entire team – Ohio State is also balanced as Kam Williams showed Thursday night against the Jackrabbits.

Ohio State will need to avoid any long droughts – their experience as a team has allowed them to do that – toughness is the key and I love that Holtmann stresses that. In the last regular season game against Indiana, the Buckeyes were tough the entire game and had no long droughts. It was a close and hard fought victory for the Buckeyes. I’d love to see that type of game again Saturday night.

Ohio State’s Starting Lineup will be:
Number 34 – 6-9 Freshman Center Kaleb Wesson
Number 33 – 6-7 Junior Power Forward Keita Bates-Diop, the Big Ten Player of the Year,
Number 15 – 6-2 Senior Shooting Guard Kam Williams
Number 3 – 6-1 Junior Shooting Guard or Point Guard CJ Jackson, the Buckeyes leader in assists this season, and finally
Number 1 – 6-4 Senior Jae’Sean Tate, Point Guard or Small Forward, the heart and soul of the team who does it all for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is coached by Chis Holtmann in his first year, the Big Ten Coach of the Year.

So far, the Big Ten is undefeated! Let’s keep it that way.

This is Dave Horning for HoopsOnLane.com Fan Podcast. The season continues! It’s March Madness! … one game at a time … Go Bucks!