OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (2-0)
at MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES (2-0)
BMO Harris Bradley Center - Milwaukee, WI
Tip-off: Saturday 1:00 p.m. ET
Line: Ohio State -1
Two top-25 teams square off Saturday afternoon as No. 17 Marquette hosts No. 10 Ohio State.
The Buckeyes are 2-0, but are coming off a tougher than expected victory against in-state rival Ohio. In that game, the Buckeyes saw a 12-point halftime lead shrink to five with four minutes to go, but PG Aaron Craft scored nine points in the final minutes to help the team pull away with the 79-69 victory. Ohio State has struggled with the new defense rules in college basketball, as they have averaged 18.5 fouls per game. The Buckeyes have been good on the road in recent games, going 4-2 SU in their last six road games. The guard play is very good in Columbus, but they must find a post presence. The Golden Eagles have a nice duo down low with Chris Otule and Davante Gardner, who combined for 27 points and 12 rebounds in a 114-71 victory over Grambling State on Tuesday. Through the first two contests, Marquette is averaging 88.5 points per game, and will give the Buckeyes major problems. The Golden Eagles have one of the best home-court advantages in the country, going 5-1 SU in their past six home games. Marquette is very good at home, but the Buckeyes are a very good road team because of their leaders. The Golden Eagles are 0-10 ATS under Buzz Williams after limiting their opponent to 33% FG or less, but are also 18-6 ATS (75%) as a home underdog of six points or less (or pick) since 1997.
Which team will remain unbeaten on Saturday? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The experts have started the season on fire, going 62% ATS (23-14-2) in college basketball Best Bets, led by StatFox Zach's 6-1-1 ATS record. StatFox Scott has also started strong, going 6-2 ATS on his college hoops Best Bets, while StatFox Brian is 57% ATS (4-3-1) in Best Bets.
Ohio State senior PG Aaron Craft (11.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.0 APG) is the leader of the Buckeyes in large part to his play on the defensive end. There is no player in the country that has the ability to harass the opposing point guard quite as effectively as Craft. However, like the rest of the players in the country, he is having to adjust to the new rules that don't let a defensive player touch an offensive player. In the game against the Ohio Bobcats, he tallied three steals, but picked up four fouls and had his problems staying in front of Nick Kellogg, who scored 21 points. However for Ohio State to contend for a Final Four, Craft must shoot the ball with more consistency from outside. His three-point percentage has gotten worse throughout his career, going from 37.7% as a freshman to 35.9% as a sophomore to 30.0% last season. So far in 2012-13, he is 0-for-2 from deep. Picking up the slack on offense is PF LaQuinton Ross (12.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG). With Deshaun Thomas off to the NBA, Ross now has an extended role in the offense, and has the ability to average 15 points and nine rebounds. In games like this between two top-25 teams, free throws could play a huge role in the outcome. Ohio State is shooting 75 percent from the foul line this season, compared to just 62 percent by Marquette. The Golden Eagles must shoot better than that if they want to get the victory.
It seems like every year, the Golden Eagles lose very talented players from a great team, leaving people to wonder how good of a team they can be. Last year’s go-to player, SG Vander Blue, left for the NBA, but it once again appears that Marquette has a team that could reach the Elite Eight like they did last season, or go even farther. On the season, PF Davante Gardner (17.5 PPG, 56% FG, 4.5 RPG) has developed into an impressive presence. He has consistently improved throughout his career, and is a major presence in the post with his 290-pound frame. He has helped the Golden Eagles average 88.5 points on 49 percent shooting from the field. They have great players inside, but they also have a lot of talent on the perimeter as well. Like Gardner, SG Todd Mayo (14.0 PPG, 2-for-5 threes, 4.0 RPG) is taking his game to another level, as the junior has taken the role of the top guard on offense. At 6-foot-3, he has enough size to pair with his athleticism that makes him very difficult to stop from getting to the basket. Both of these teams play incredibly hard, as Thad Matta and Buzz Williams are two of the most passionate coaches in the country.