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Ohio State-VCU Perhaps Best Matchup Thursday In NCAA Tournament
For my money, the most intriguing first-round NCAA Tournament game on the schedule in Thursday's opening round is when No. 10 seed Ohio State, which faded a bit down the stretch but has one of the nation's best freshman in D'Angelo Russell, faces No. 7 VCU with its pressure defense. Despite being the higher seed, the Buckeyes are 4-point favorites on BetOnline.
The 2014-15 Ohio State roster has 30 games of combined NCAA tournament experience and 10 starts entering the 2015 NCAA Tournament. The team has a total of 111 points, 80 rebounds, 33 assists, 19 steals and 22 blocks. Senior Sam Thompson has played in 10 NCAA Tournament games to go with five starts. He has scored 64 points to go with 32 rebounds in NCAA play. Shannon Scott has been in nine NCAA games, averaging 3.3 ppg. (30 total) and 2.7 rebounds (24 total). He has handed out 22 assists and recorded 13 steals. Amir Williams has made eight appearances to with five starts in NCAA Tournament games. He has tallied 21 rebounds and eight points to go along with 13 blocks. Trey McDonald has made two appearances in the NCAA tournament scoring five points and grabbing three rebounds. Marc Loving is the only other player on the Ohio State roster to suit up for the Buckeyes in NCAA competition. He made his only appearance a season ago vs. Dayton in Buffalo. He scored four points in that game.
OSU will only go as far as Russell takes them. He was named a freshman All-American. Ohio State's rookie guard leads the Buckeyes in scoring (19.3 ppg.) and rebounding (5.6 rpg.). He is second is assists (168) and steals (53). Russell, who has scored 10 or more points in 31-consecutive games, has scored 20 or more points 15 times this season and twice has reached the 30-point plateau. Thompson is the only other Buckeye to average double-digits at 10.2 points per game. As a team, Ohio State is shooting .486 from the floor and .372 from long range.
The Rams, led by sixth-year head coach Shaka Smart, are 26-9 on the year and defeated Dayton, 71-65, in the Atlantic 10 championship game Sunday afternoon. Senior Treveon Graham leads VCU in scoring with 16.3 points per game to go along with 7.0 rebounds per contest. Junior Melvin Johnson chips in 12.3 points for the Rams, who average 72.5 points per game as a team. The Rams are the first program in the Commonwealth of Virginia to reach the NCAA Tournament five straight years.
VCU uses a suffocating defensive pressure called " Havoc." The Rams rank 10th in the country, forcing 16.2 turnovers per game and only turn the ball over themselves 10.6 times per game. That plus-5.6 margin is good for the third-best turnover margin in all of college basketball. VCU features a ton of long, athletic guys who get after it on the defensive end even though it has played the last six weeks without its defensive anchor, Briante Weber, who was lost for the season with a knee injury.
The winner of Thursday's match-up will face the winner of the two-seeded Arizona and 15-seeded Texas Southern.
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