NCAA Basketball Picks: Iona vs. Ohio State

Darin Zank

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 2:59 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 20, 2013 2:59 PM UTC

The Ohio State Buckeyes begin their quest for a second-straight trip to the Final Four when they take on the Gaels of Iona in a West Region “second round” game Friday in Dayton (7:15 pm ET, CBS).

The NCAA basketball odds list OSU as a two touchdown favorite over Iona; can the Buckeyes provide their financial backers with a cover? Or can the 15th-seeded Gaels, playing in the NCAA tournament for the second year in a row, hold their own against the two seed, and maybe even pull one of those “big” early-round upsets?

And where might the smart money be played on this game, and where are we looking to place our NCAA Basketball picks?

Buckeyes-Gaels Betting Lines

Most online sportsbooks we consulted opened this game with Ohio State favored by 13.5 points, the total proffered at 145. And both those numbers had held steady through the early betting.

Going by Sagarin's PREDICTOR ratings at the Buckeyes should be favored by 14 points for this game.


Buckeyes-Gaels Preview

Ohio State returned three starters this season from the team that went to the Final Four last year. Most “experts” picked the Buckeyes to finish in the top three in the Big Ten this season, and do that they did, going 13-5 to finish in a tie for second place, one game back of first-place Indiana.

OSU then won three games in three days last weekend to win the Big Ten tournament, holding Wisconsin to 43 points in Sunday's conference title game.

On the season Ohio State has beaten NCAA tournament qualifiers Albany, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan State, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan State again and Wisconsin again. And each of the Buckeyes' seven losses came against teams that eventually made the 2013 NCAA Tournamet, including Duke and Kansas.

On the underdog side of this matchup Iona started 6-6 this season, then won six in a row. But later, in February, the Gaels lost six of seven games, each by three points or less. Iona then won its final two regular-season games, then won three games in three days to take MAAC tournament title (and the automatic NCAA bid) as the four seed.

On the season the Gaels own victories over Wake Forest, Georgia and NCAA tournament qualifier Liberty, and of their 13 losses, 11 have come by six points or less.

Last year Iona blew a 25-point lead and lost to Brigham Young in one of those NCAA tournament play-in games by a 78-72 score. Needless to say, the Gaels would probably like to redeem themselves after such a crushing defeat.

Buckeyes-Gaels, By the Numbers

Ohio State, playing what Sagarin ranks as the 12th-toughest schedule in CBB this season, are shooting 45 percent from the floor, 35 percent from 3-point land and 69 percent from the FT line. The Buckeyes are also limiting foes to less than 40 percent FG shooting and out-rebounding opponents by about three boards per game.

Iona, playing the 138th-toughest schedule this season, is shooting 46 percent from the field, 37 percent from long range and a sparkling 78 percent from the line. Defensively the Gaels are allowing foes to shoot 45 percent, and they're playing opponents to a near-even battle on the boards.

Buckeyes-Gaels Betting Trends

Iona is 13-9 on the OVER/UNDERS this season, as Gaels games have averaged a healthy 156 points.

Ohio State is 12-18 on the totals, as Buckeyes games have averaged 127 points.

Free NCAA Tournament Pick: The Buckeyes have been playing some nasty defense recently, holding their last six opponents to 58 points or less. And they definitely hold a strength-of-schedule advantage over the Gaels. Going 14-7 in MAAC games is one thing; going up against a team that went 16-5 in Big Ten games is another. Iona can throw the ball in the hole; it's averaging 81 PPG this season. But the Gaels will find the going a little tougher Friday against OSU. Take the Buckeyes at the -13.5 points offered at Matchbook.
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