One of the eight remaining games in the round of 32 is a battle in the Midwest Region, where No. 11 Ohio State (20-14, 8th Big 10) will try to pull off an upset against No. 3 Houston (32-3, 1st AAC). The winner will advance to the Sweet 16 to face No. 2 Kentucky.
Here’s a brief look on how each team fared in their opening game, along with an in-depth look at both teams to see whose road to the Final Four will continue. Currently, Houston is the favorite at -6.0.
Ohio State Edges Iowa State
The Buckeyes pulled off the upset against the Big 12 tournament champion No. 6 Iowa State, hanging on to win 62-59. Kaleb Wesson scored 21 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, Keyshawn Woods added 19 points, and Musa Jallow also scored 11 points. The Cyclones led just once in the second half and failed to send the game to overtime when Nick Weiler-Babb missed an open three with time winding down.
Houston Routs Georgia State
Corey Davis scored a team-leading 26 points as Houston crushed No. 14 Georgia State 84-55. The Cougars got out to a 15-3 lead and then opened up the second half on a 10-2 run to put the game away for good. Houston has now won tournament games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since their national championship appearance in 1984.
The Keys for Ohio State
Despite pulling off the upset over Iowa State, the Buckeyes are not a team who you would consider “hot.” They have won only two of their last six games overall, and have a 2-8 record this season against teams ranked in the AP Top 25.
The Buckeyes average 69.4 points per game, ranking 264th in the country. With a 43.8% field goal percentage and 33.7% clip from three, they’re not a great shooting team. But they’re another team that relies on its defense to win games, allowing an average of 66 points, 42nd in the nation.
The sophomore Kaleb Wesson is Ohio State’s number one option, averaging 14.6 points and 6.9 rebounds a night. He has been playing great as of late, registering three double-doubles in his last four games. Senior Keyshawn Woods is also an option for OSU. Woods has averaged just 8.0 PPG this season but has scored at least 15 in three of the last four games. They will need both of these players to play a huge factor in pulling off an upset.
The Keys for Houston
The Cougars are showing signs of a potential championship contender, not seen from them since the early 1980s. Houston only has three losses all season, with their only loss over their last six games a 69-57 defeat at the hands of Cincinnati in the AAC championship.
Houston averaged 75.6 points per game this season, good for 98th in the country. They led their conference in three-point shooting, rebounding, and assists, and finished second in field goal percentage and points per game. They are also an elite defensive team, holding opponents to just 61.2 points, eighth in the nation.
Senior guard Corey Davis averages 16.9 points per game to lead the Cougars in scoring. Just one other player averages in double-figures: Armoni Brooks. Brooks averages 13.3 points, and leads the AAC with 3.2 made three-pointers per game. Houston has six additional players who average 4.9 points per game or more.
With such a balanced scoring attack and suffocating defense, the one area of concern for Houston is fouls. The Cougars have committed 662 personal fouls this season, 58 more than Ohio State.
Houston’s is a smaller team, which means Ohio State should have an advantage with the size of Wesson. I think this will be a game that is closer than a lot of people may expect, but I think Houston has too many weapons and will squeak out a win to advance to the Sweet 16.
FINAL SCORE: Houston 72, Ohio State 68