The Bobcats fired the first round's loudest volley with their upset of Georgetown. Led by Armon Bassett, Ohio looks to score a second surprise today vs, the Tennessee Volunteers.
Armon Bassett is no hound. In fact, the Indiana transfer has turned the Ohio Bobcats into live NCAA Tournament dogs.
Bassett, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound point guard, has put Ohio on his slim shoulders and carried it into a second round showdown with the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday at Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence.
The Bobcats pulled off their biggest upset in school history in Thursday’s opening round, scoring 97 points in just 73 possessions against Georgetown, a big scary three-seed from the Big East. Bassett scored 32 points on 17 shots and played every minute of the game.
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How did Ohio get this far against such long odds without a single All-MAC player on its roster? They rode the only guy on the roster who owns NCAA Tournament experience.
Bassett ran the point for the Hoosiers when they went dancing in 2007 and 2008 and ever since the conference tournament he’s been doing a pretty good impression of former IU teammate Eric Gordon. He started things off by scoring 25 points to help the Bobcats upset Ball State in overtime, added a career-high 38 to cast aside Kent and finished up by scoring more than half of his team’s points (28 of 54) in a win over archrival Miami (O).
There was nothing fluky about Ohio’s lopsided 97-83 win over the Hoyas. The Bobcats led by double-digits practically from flagfall to finish, they shot 58 percent from the field and hit 13 three-pointers. The defense forced 18 Georgetown turnovers and the Hoyas never looked comfortable on either side of the ball.
Tennessee reached the second round with classic grind-it-out basketball. The Volunteers held San Diego State to 38.5 percent shooting en route to a 62-59 victory. J.P. Price limited Aztecs top scorer Kawhi Leonard to 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting.
But Tennessee will have to switch how they defend in round two. It was critical to shut down San Diego State’s inside game. The Vols will have to defend the perimeter against the Bobcats.
Ohio likes to play up-tempo and it led the MAC and set the school record with 255 three-pointers, but guards D.J. Cooper and Bassett have the quickness to make defenders pay if they try to smother their jumpers.
However, DeVaughn Washington is the closet thing the Bobcats have to an interior scorer. If Ohio can’t scratch out a few points in the post, that’s going to put a lot of pressure on its trio of shooters.
Tennessee has been far more reluctant to hoist the three and has all but abandoned the press. The Vols now prefer a patient halfcourt offense while valuing every possession and contesting every shot.
If the history books are correct, this will likely be the end of the Bobcats’ magic carpet ride.
There was only one upset last year in the second round, as the better seeds, all favored, went 15-1 SU and 11-5 ATS. In addition, upset winners from the first round are just 4-11 ATS trying to pull of another upset in round two over the last two years.
In second round games where a double-digit seed has met a No. 6 or worse, the better seed is 9-0 SU and 8-0-1 ATS over the last 10 years.
Ohio has cashed 12 of its last 13 and 10 of 11 against teams on the plus side of the ledger. The Bobcats have also ‘covered’ 13 of 18 after scoring more than 90 points. Conversely, Tennessee has come up short at an 11-5-1 spread clip in its last 17 trips to the post.
The Volunteers have knuckled ‘under’ at a 6-0-1 rate in their last seven games at neutral sites and they have ended on the low side in eight of 10 versus non-conference foes. Ohio has jumped the number in five of its last six games.
Most offshore books opened Tennessee as a nine-point favorite, with the ‘total’ set at 140. Saturday's tip is slated for approximately 3:35 p.m. (ET) with the winner moving on to St. Louis next week.