The 13th-seeded Ohio Bobcats look for another upset win when they take on the fifth-seeded Creighton Bluejays in a second-round West Region game in the NCAA Tournament on Monday at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Ohio advanced to this game with an upset win over Virginia in the first round, while Creighton got past UC Santa Barbara by one point in the first round.
The winner of this game advances to the Sweet 16, where it will face either top-seeded Gonzaga or eighth-seeded Oklahoma next Sunday.
The Bobcats (17-7) have lost just once since Jan. 17, though they did have three breaks in action due to COVID-19 troubles over that span. The upset win over Virginia was Ohio’s third straight NCAA appearance with at least one win, with all three coming as a 13 seed or higher.
The Bobcats advanced to the Sweet 16 with two wins in 2012 as a 13th seed after making it to the second round as a 14th seed in 2010.
Creighton (21-8) bounced back from an ugly loss to Georgetown in the Big East tournament title game to get past UC Santa Barbara when a potential go-ahead shot rattled out in the final seconds. The Bluejays have now won four of their last five and are looking to win two games in one NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1974.
Looking at the college basketball odds for this contest, Creighton is a 5½-point favorite, with the over/under set at 149.
Ohio has no shortage of scorers, with all five starters averaging in double figures on the season. Jason Preston leads the way with 16.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 1.4 steals, as he is shooting 53.2% from the field. Preston’s assist average ranks sixth in the nation.
Preston had a near-triple-double in the first round, finishing with 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Junior forward Ben Vander Plas led the way with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists and is averaging 13.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals on the season.
Senior forward Dwight Wilson III leads the team with 7.5 rebounds per game, and he’s scoring 14.6 points on 65.6% shooting from the field, which ranks third in the nation. Wilson is seven points away from reaching the 1,000-point plateau in his college career.
Also dangerous on the offensive end are sophomore forward Ben Roderick and sophomore guard Lunden McDay, who are averaging 12.5 and 10.2 points, respectively. The five starters played all but 23 minutes of the game against Virginia, with both Vander Plas and Preston playing the entire game.
Leading the Way
It’s not surprising that Marcus Zegarowski was the Bluejays’ leading scorer in the first-round win over UC Santa Barbara with 17 points. Zegarowski also had eight assists and two steals in the contest. The junior guard has been the Creighton team leader in scoring all season long, averaging 15.6 points and 4.5 rebounds.
But he’s not the only scoring weapon for Greg McDermott’s squad, which has double-figure scorers throughout the starting lineup. The Bluejays also don’t go deep into their bench, using only three reserves against UC Santa Barbara.
Junior forward Christian Bishop had a big game in the first round, going for 15 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. On the season, Bishop is averaging 11.0 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds while shooting 67.5% from the floor.
Senior forward Damien Jefferson will also be key in this one, as he averages 12.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. One problem with Creighton is its free-throw shooting, as starters Bishop, Jefferson and guard Mitch Ballock are all shooting less than 60% from the charity stripe.
Ohio Keeps It Close
While the Bluejays are the higher seed in this one, we’ve seen already in the NCAA Tournament that seeds don’t seem to mean a lot. Entering Monday’s action, there were already three double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16, so Ohio certainly has some encouragement that it can be done.
Both of these teams are very balanced in their scoring, but Zegarowski and Preston are the key players. If either of those two is off his game, it could be the difference in this one.
We can see Creighton winning this one, but it won’t be easy. When doing your college basketball betting, take the 5½ points and go with the Bobcats.