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What To Watch: OSU vs. Iowa State

Ohio State, the No. 2 seed in the NCAA West Region, will play for a fourth straight Sweet 16 berth as it takes on No. 10 seed Iowa State in a third-round tournament match-up Sunday at the University of Dayton Arena (12:15 p.m., CBS).

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Since the NCAA field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985, Ohio State has reached the Sweet 16 seven times. That includes the last three years in a row. No team remaining in this year’s tournament has made it to four straight Sweet 16s.

Below, we have our preview and a prediction for Sunday’s OSU-Iowa State game.

In the video boards, we have comments from OSU coach Thad Matta (above) and players Deshaun Thomas, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Aaron Craft (below).

Here is our What To Watch feature for Sunday’s game against Iowa State:

Opponent: Iowa State

* Where: University of Dayton Arena (capacity: 13,409); Dayton, Ohio

* Date, Time: Sunday, 12:15 p.m.

* TV: CBS (Announcers: Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and Tracy Wolfson)

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* 2012-13 Records: Ohio State, 27-7 overall, 13-5 Big Ten (tied for second); Iowa State, 23-11 overall, 11-7 Big Ten (tied for fourth).

* NCAA Tournament Records: Ohio State, 29th appearance, 52-27 all-time, 11 Final Fours (most recent 2012), one national title (1960); Iowa State, 15th appearance, 14-14 all-time, one Final Four (1944).

* Poll Rankings: Ohio State, seventh in the AP poll and sixth in the USA Today coaches poll; Iowa State, unranked.

* RPI Rankings: Ohio State, 10th; Iowa State, 45th.

* Sagarin Rankings: Ohio State, fifth; Iowa State, 33rd.

* Key Players (2012-13 Stats): Ohio State – F Deshaun Thomas, 6-7, jr., 19.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg; G Aaron Craft, 6-2, jr., 9.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.7 apg, 2.1 spg; G Lenzelle Smith Jr., 6-4, jr., 9.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.6 apg; F LaQuinton Ross, 6-8, so., 7.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg; C Amir Williams, 6-11, so., 3.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.3 bpg; F-C Evan Ravenel, 6-8, sr., 5.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg; F Sam Thompson, 6-7, so., 7.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg; G Shannon Scott, 6-2, so., 4.9 ppg, 4.0 apg, 1.8 spg. Iowa State – G Chris Babb, 6-5, sr., 9.2 ppg; G Will Clyburn, 6-7, sr., 14.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg; G Korie Lucious, 5-11, sr., 9.8 ppg, 5.6 apg; F Melvin Ejim, 6-6, jr., 11.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg; F Georges Niang, 6-7, fr., 12.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg; G Tyus McGee, 6-2, sr., 13.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg.

* Quality Of Opponent: Very good. Iowa State rolled to an easy 76-58 win over No. 7 seed Notre Dame in its NCAA opener Friday night. Niang had 19 points and Ejim had 17 in the win for the Cyclones, who were 9 of 21 from three-point range (42.9 percent).

Iowa State is fourth nationally in scoring (79.6 ppg) and first nationally in three-pointers made per game (9.8). The Cyclones have won seven of their last 10 games coming into this one.

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Babb is a transfer from Penn State, while Lucious played previously at Michigan State. McGee was the Big 12 sixth man of the year, hitting 47 percent of his three-point tries.

OSU and Iowa State had three common opponents: Missouri-Kansas City, Iowa and Kansas. Both teams defeated UMKC (OSU won 91-45, ISU won 76-61). OSU downed Iowa 72-63, while ISU lost to Iowa 80-71. OSU lost to Kansas 74-66, while ISU lost to Kansas three times (97-89 in overtime at Lawrence, 108-96 in a controversial overtime loss at Ames and 88-73 in the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City).

* OSU-Iowa State Series: OSU is 5-0 all-time against Iowa State. The schools last played in 2005-06. The teams met Dec. 7, 2005, at Des Moines, Iowa, with OSU winning 70-67. The Buckeyes won the return game 75-56 on Dec. 19, 2006, in Columbus.

The teams met once previously in the NCAA with Ohio State winning 75-64 in a 1985 first-round game in Tulsa, Okla.

* Fun Facts: Through Saturday’s games, Big Ten teams are a combined 8-1 in this year’s tournament. Michigan and Michigan State are already in the Sweet 16. Besides OSU, Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana will also play for Sweet 16 spots on Sunday … The Buckeyes have won nine straight games after Friday’s 95-70 rout of No. 15 seed Iona. Thomas had 24 points and Thompson had career highs in points (20) and rebounds (10) in that win … The win over Iona moved OSU to 4-2 all-time in NCAA games at UD Arena. The Buckeyes have failed to advance to the Sweet 16 their last two times in the Gem City (2006 and 2009) … Since the NCAA field expanded in 1985, Ohio State is 7-6 in games to reach the Sweet 16 … This is OSU’s seventh NCAA trip in nine seasons under Thad Matta. Under Matta, OSU is now 15-6 in NCAA Tournament games. Matta’s overall record as a college coach in the NCAA is 21-10. Including conference tournaments, the NCAA and the NIT, Matta’s teams are 54-16 all-time in postseason play as a college coach and 39-11 in the postseason at OSU … Iowa State ended the season unranked. Ohio State was 22-0 against unranked teams this season … Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, 40, is in his third season as the Cyclones coach. Last year, he led ISU to its first NCAA berth since 2005. He played for Iowa State in the mid-1990s, played 10 years in the NBA and was an executive with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

* Match-Ups To Watch: There are several to watch. Obviously, the Buckeyes must do a good job in defending the three-point arc. That starts with the sixth man McGee, who is hitting 46 percent of his three-point shots. Lucious and Babb can also create some issues. The thought is that Craft and Scott will play McGee and Lucious and Smith may go against the larger Babb. Thompson probably draws the assignment against the like-sized Clyburn, who had seven double-doubles during the year.

Thomas will have his hands full with the active Ejim, who led the Big 12 in rebounding and double-doubles (14). And it goes without saying that Williams and Ravenel must hold their own against Niang in the paint. He is coming off his best game against Notre Dame.

* What’s At Stake: A spot in the NCAA Sweet 16 and a chance to keep the ride going at least a little bit longer.

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* Next On The Docket: The winner advances to the NCAA West Regional at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. That team will play the winner of Saturday’s third-round game between No. 14 seed Harvard (20-9) and No. 6 seed Arizona (26-7). That regional semifinal will be Thursday night.

* How We See It: It had been a while since Ohio State was able to get out and run and that’s exactly what the Buckeyes did last night against Iona. OSU had 34 fast-break points and 29 points off turnovers against the error-prone Gaels.

Obviously, this is a big step up in class for Ohio State to play Iowa State. And the Buckeyes need to realize right away that things will not come as easily as they did last night. Iowa State also prefers an up-tempo game and will not hesitate to hoist the threes. OSU had struggled with close-outs at time this year, so the Buckeyes will want to be on point with their perimeter defense.

This is going to be an intense and fun game which should go up-and-down for the first 30 minutes. It will become a halfcourt game, though, by the end and the team that executes the best in that setting will pull away.

For OSU, the Buckeyes need Thomas to continue his torrid pace in NCAA games. Thompson has really come on in recent weeks as has Ross. Craft must play well at both ends and if Smith can approach the 12 points he scored against Iona, the Buckeyes should be in good shape.

This will be a roller coaster ride and a great way to tip off this Sunday’s NCAA action. When it’s done, though, the Buckeyes will be booking their flight for LA.

I will call it: Ohio State 80, Iowa State 70

Press Conference Transcripts

Click here for partial video of Matta’s press conference.

Here is the transcript of today’s press conference in Dayton:

Q. Did you watch the Notre Dame Iowa State game yesterday? I just want to know if you guys are prepared for the physicality of their inside game compared to their outside game. Notre Dame seemed to think they were going to shoot 3s all night and they ended up beating them inside. How are you going to prepare for that?
SAM THOMPSON: We know that Iowa State is a tough, physical basketball team. I know they're experienced and they've been here before. We think the rigors of the Big Ten season have prepared us well for a physical game and we feel if we match their intensity, good things will happen for us.
SHANNON SCOTT: Just like Sam said, a team like Michigan State, just like them. We know we've played against physical guys before. We've just got to play the same way that we did against them.

Q. The run that you've been on, this nine game winning streak, what's been the key? Has there been a player that’s stepped up as a vocal leader? Was it the coaches who stepped up and you guys are actually following what they asked you to do all season long and you've won nine straight? What's been the key?
SHANNON SCOTT: I think as a team we're all doing our roles now. We're not trying to play one on one basketball now. We're all playing together, and that's really helped us out a lot.
Coach Matta talked to us about this, playing our game, and we know what we've got to do to win. So we're focusing on that, we’re doing that a lot better.
SAM THOMPSON: Like Shannon said, we have an understanding of what we have to do to be successful. Every guy on the court and on the bench is buying into what we have to do to win basketball games on both sides of the ball.
These past few games, these past couple of weeks, good things have been happening for us.

Q. What's the difference mentality wise for your roles last year in the tournament versus this year?
SAM THOMPSON: We know that last year we were mainly the support guys, mainly in there just to give guys breathers if someone got into foul trouble. Last year versus Syracuse when Lenzelle had to get stitches, so I came in for a couple of minutes so we knew we were basically holdover guys last year.
This year we have a much bigger role. We're really called upon to make plays on both sides of the ball for our team and it's a fun position to be in.
SHANNON SCOTT: Just like Sam said, last year we were there for support really, make sure the team's doing what we've got to do to win. This year we've got to take a bigger role, but it's a lot more fun doing that.

Q. For both of you guys, confidence wise, is your confidence at an all time high, both of you, for what you've been asked to do and what happened yesterday?
SHANNON SCOTT: I think of course our confidence is at an all time high now. We're winning games the way we are. I think going ahead with great confidence. When you're losing games, you wonder what you should be doing better. Now the way we're winning just helped our confidence a lot.
SAM THOMPSON: Like Shannon said, whenever we have a team that's playing as well as we are right now, whenever we're executing the way that we are defensively and offensively, it definitely adds a little bit of juice to every guy's confidence. If we continue to do the things that we addressed this far, I think it will be good.

Q. What do you feel when you're flying through the air like that? How do you even get up that high? The crowd was amazed yesterday.
SAM THOMPSON: I guess excited would be a good word. I know that whenever we make an alley oop play, whenever I get a big dunk it really ignites our team on both sides of the ball and really gives the other team something to think about.
It's always fun when I'm up there, when Shannon and Craft do a great job of getting into the teeth of the defense and just laying it up there for me. I think it's a big play for our team.

Q. The Big Ten is now 7 1 in the games that have been played so far, as Michigan won earlier today. How much did that brutal schedule and the teams that you played week in and week out, twice, sometimes three times this year, prepare you for this tournament?
SAM THOMPSON: I think it really did prepare us well. The Big Ten conference was an unbelievable conference this year in basketball. It was the best basketball conference in the country, and when you're playing against the top talent in the country night in and night out on a weekly basis, it really prepares you for what you're going to see in the postseason.
THE MODERATOR: Sam and Shannon, thank you.
We're now being joined by the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, Thad Matta. Coach, if you'd like, make an opening statement, and after that we'll open the floor for questions.
COACH MATTA: Obviously, it's good to be back at the podium. It means you've advanced. I think in terms of trying to prepare our team, and we've got a quick turnaround as Iowa State does, we're playing a very talented basketball team.
Our guys are well aware they've got a couple of Big Ten guys on their team. They've got a pretty good appreciation for how Ohio State wants to play and the job that we have to do, as it's supposed to be in this tournament. We've got another great challenge ahead of us.

Q. From the outside, we can tell your team has even ratcheted it up defensively more in these past few weeks and has gotten some secondary scoring outside of Deshaun Thomas, but internally has there been anything that's been different that has sort of spurred you guys along in this last month or so?
COACH MATTA: I don't think so. We've had a very good rhythm from practice to film to meetings to games, and it's ironic how it's worked itself out.
These guys have done a very good job of, and I say this, committing to each other. It's one of the biggest things you always strive for as a coach, and to see them uniting over the last month to the level that they are, I think that's probably been the biggest difference, the fact guys have stepped up, as we said, early in the season. We had moments we just weren't as consistent as we needed to be for 40 minutes. We knew guys could do certain things and now it's putting them in the position to play their best basketball, and that's what we're attempting to do.

Q. During this winning streak, are there a couple things you can point to that have been kind of consistent for you from start to finish of it?
COACH MATTA: I think our defense has been really, really good. I mean statistically, that's kind of a fact there. I think that we've done a better job of taking care of the basketball, executing offensively.
I think that guys coming into the game, we've gotten great sparks off the bench from Shannon, Q (LaQuinton Ross), Evan. it's probably made us more of a complete basketball team just in terms of maybe some guy's having a bad stretch, a bad first half or whatever, and guys have kind of picked up on it and answered that if you will, and that's ultimately what you're looking for in team basketball, which is what we preach.

Q. Coach, what's the preparation looking like for tomorrow's game? Are you prepared for the inside game as well as the outside game?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, and that's the thing, Iowa State does a great job of spreading you out and they've shown that they can hurt you in both ways. As we've told our guys, it's kind of a do both type game. We've got to guard inside, we've got to guard outside, we've got to guard in between, they've got midrange players. It's definitely, definitely going to be a great challenge. I view these guys as offensively there's a lot of ways they put a lot of points on the board, and obviously transition defense will be paramount.

Q. Have you played a team this season that's similar to Ohio State in the way they're sort of totally committed to five out and Niang handles the ball a lot? Has there been a team on your guys' schedule that plays that sort of spread out style?
COACH MATTA: Michigan does a little bit, they'll move their bigs around in a pick and roll. Probably the biggest difference is their bigs can pick and pop for 3s as opposed to Michigan with the spacing, they're usually rolling those guys very effectively.
I can't recall anybody that's just kind of that far out. We've had teams that have tried to do that to us, it wasn't a staple of what they do. Our one game against Iowa this year, they went with like a guard and four forwards and tried to do that, but haven't seen a ton of that.

Q. Thad, I wonder I know you're locked in on your game preparation and all that. Have you been aware of your bracket in the NCAA tournament? You have 3, 4, and 5 seeds that have been knocked out.
COACH MATTA: I heard that yeah. I'm not sure who's what, but I get confused now. Many years ago we'd all be in one and we all advance together. So now like teams are playing all over the place.
As you said, my focus is on trying to get us a win tomorrow, as challenging as it's going to be. I think at that point you sort of take a deep breath and say all right, what's the next thing? All we've talked about this week with our guys is the two games in Dayton. Hopefully on the bus ride home, we're saying okay, this is the next opponent and these are the four teams that are there.

Q. Coach, in the last 30 years, there's only been two Big Ten teams win the national title. There are four, five, six teams from the Big Ten right now fighting for that. Is this a year, with the talent that's there, that you see a Big Ten team win?
COACH MATTA: I think it's highly likely I want to make sure I term this right, I don't want to get the Big Ten in trouble. I think there's a good chance. I really, really do, and it's like I said, when I got in the league nine years ago Illinois had just a phenomenal team, so did North Carolina.
You go back to '07, and this is how my luck goes as a coach, we had one of the greatest teams in college basketball history and we just happened to be playing the team that won the National Championship the year before with all five starters back.
I do think that there's you've got great teams. There's no question in my mind, I speak from experience. Those teams are battle tested and there's like I said, there's a very, very good chance of it because you get the one thing about the Big Ten this year is you've got great players obviously, you've got great coaches, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Q. In a similar vein, do Big Ten do you root for other not in your part of the bracket, do you root for other teams in your conference? Do you think it's people have been keeping kind of a scorecard, the A 10 is 6 1 or whatever in the tournament and the Big Ten is so and so. Do you think it's fair to evaluate leagues based on a tournament with this kind of format where matchups and one game any night anyone can win kind of thing?
COACH MATTA: I don't think it's I don't want to say fair, but I don't know how right it is because, quite honestly, we're all representing one thing and one thing only and that's our university now. I want the Big Ten to do as well as it possibly can, but I say that from the standpoint of I know the other coaches from the Big Ten, they're worried about one thing and one thing only, and that's advancing.
Maybe in the end, when we have our spring meetings, we can all high five each other because we had a great year, but I think for the most part it's CYOA or whatever that is.

Q. I just wondered what you were going to do to try to make it seem like it's not a noon start for your guys.
COACH MATTA: Wake up call will be a lot earlier. No, that's something that this team has done a great job of, and that is, learning its lessons. If that's an issue tomorrow, I'm going to be highly saddened by that in terms of we're not ready to go, and we will be ready to go, but I'll be honest with you. We have talked about a couple different things, just in terms of walking through in the hotel or playing dodge ball or something in the lobby, just something to get them kind of going.
They know that's not we've talked about that a lot with them, and reflecting back, like I've always said, we practice in the mornings, so hopefully that's not an issue.

Q. Thad, the team you're playing tomorrow, they love to shoot the 3. 42 percent of all their shots are 3 point shots, whether it's the half court or in transition. The defensive mindset, is it to force them to put it on the floor and take away the arc?
COACH MATTA: Well, it's a little bit of both, as I said earlier. It's kind of a do both because the problem is they can shoot the 3, but they can also go by you.
I think from a standpoint of we've got to challenge shots, we've got to guard the basketball, keep it in front of us because the spacing, they love to drive, kick, spray it around. But challenge shots, get rebounds. They're a team, if you make a mistake, they're going to make you pay.
The thing we're trying to get our guys to understand, we have to be as sound as we possibly can, and you're not going to hold us scoreless, and we're not going to stop them from making 3s. You've just got to go play after play after play and do the best that we can.

Q. Do you as a coach have to be aware of or be prepared for your team maybe trying to match them in a 3 point shooting contest and get away from what's got you the nine wins in a row?
COACH MATTA: Some teams I would be but this one I'm not. Our guys have a pretty good understanding of what we're trying to do. We've grown in that area. I think from the standpoint of these guys knowing going into the game that Iowa State is a team that relies heavily on 3 point shooting.
Like I said, it's that possession after possession of attempting to challenge shots, but we've played some teams this year that have shot a lot of 3s against us, and we never fell into that trap.

Q. Thad, with Sam's development coming on here late in the year, could you see him start to ask for the ball, and would you be okay with that?
COACH MATTA: Yeah, I think that Sam has really developed, just in terms of everything he's bringing to the table. The one thing nobody talks about with Sam they talk about his dunks or his eight straight free throws or shooting the ball but, boy has he become a great defender. And that's the thing I love when I see Sam out there. Sam is I will say this, all Sam Thompson wants to do is win, and I think that he's comfortable in how he's playing and what he's doing for this basketball team. I don't see him running around with his hands out calling for it, but I think that he has a good sense of what we need him to do and when we need him to do it.

Q. There's been a lot of focus the last month as your defense has gotten better and better on Shannon getting more minutes and being responsible for a lot of what's going on. In your eyes, as you watch this defense play as a whole, what's better now than it was a month or six weeks ago?
COACH MATTA: I think that we're more purpose driven in terms of guys I use this term being connected and covering for each other and just more active and probably prideful in what we're trying to get accomplished with the defense.
The Big Ten forces you to do that. You can't win in the Big Ten if you're not playing really, really good defense, and that's probably been, I think, the thing that these guys have adapted in their minds of, hey, if we want to win, we've probably got to listen to the old coach and try to guard somebody.

Q. That one way conversation you had after the Wisconsin game, was that the first time you've had to do that since you've been here at Ohio State to really get guys to buy in to the way they should play for you?
COACH MATTA: No, no, those are honestly things that transpire for every team in college basketball. There comes a time when you know what I'm saying? You've got to like, all right, let's spell this out, the black, the white of who we are.
That just seemed like the perfect time to do it, to be honest with you.

Q. Are you at this point in a strange way without that loss?
COACH MATTA: You never know, but it probably helped us just in terms of heightening our awareness. We weren't ready to play that day, so we had tremendous ammunition from film, from how we warmed up that day, those types of things, to kind of open our guys' eyes and the reality saying we're not that good, we're not a team that can just show up and win basketball games, so that probably helped propel us in terms of trying to establish an identity of, hey, we've got to be the team that comes ready to play. We can't take our foot off the gas, we can't not prepare, we really need to know scouting, those types of things.

Q. You may have addressed this before I got in here, but does Iowa State compare to anybody, as far as their style, compare to anybody that you're familiar with either this season or last season?
COACH MATTA: I did. You can just grab a copy of the notes. It will be on Page 2.
I said this, Michigan could be a team that they resemble, the difference being the five men don't pick and pop for Michigan, they're more of a roll dominant. They're trying to roll off the screen and roll. Duke, with the way they spread you out, space you out. Kansas was a little bit like that, they've had three tough battles with Kansas.
But I would say those would be the teams Indiana with kind of the push, the high powered offense coming at you in transition, but if it's not there they're going to do a good job of executing their offense, so I would say those four or five teams would be the best parallel we can draw for our guys.

Comments from Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg:

COACH HOIBERG: Thank you. We're certainly excited about this opportunity that's in front of us tomorrow against what I think is as hot a team as anybody in the nation right now, coming off a nine game win streak, winning the Big Ten Tournament, the best conference in the country. It's going to be a very difficult task, especially with one day to prepare for a team that runs a lot of great actions.
Any time you have that against a very quality team, you just have to try to put in the best game plan possible to give yourself a chance in the end. It starts with taking care of the basketball.
I think Aaron Craft is as dominant a defensive player at the guard spot maybe that I've ever seen. He just poses so many problems as far as creating turnovers which lead to run outs, which lead to baskets. We've got to take great care of the basketball.
The other thing we have to do is take care of the glass. If we can get some rebounds, hopefully, that will create some transition opportunities for our team.

Q. Coach, as you build your program, is there a school out there in college basketball that you would like to mirror your program after as it relates to the type of players you want and the level of success?
COACH HOIBERG: Kentucky. No, I'm just kidding. I don't know.
We're just going to try to build it the best we can. When I got the job a couple of years ago, the biggest thing I wanted to do is to get as much talent as possible in the program where we can compete at the Big 12 level, which is, I think, the most athletic conference in the country, and it happened to be with a lot of transfers my first two years.
Now we're starting to build it with four year players. You see a kid like Georges Niang and the type of impact he can have. We have a kid coming in next year that I absolutely love in the back court. We've got a couple of other freshmen that haven't played a lot this year just because we have a lot of seniors on this team.
So to start with getting transfers in to kind of jump start the program and now to build it with the four year players, I think everybody in Iowa, specifically in Ames, are very excited about our future.

Q. Coach, you mentioned Aaron Craft defensively. Is he the main reason their defense is as lethal as it is?
COACH HOIBERG: Well, when you have a guy like that that can get out and pressure and you can't get around him, you can get out and play passing lanes. Then they've got great length and athleticism behind him. If you do get by him, you're going to be contested at the rim.
So, again, I think the biggest thing for our guards in this game are making simple, easy plays. You can't go out there and try to get by him making a bunch of different dribble type moves. He's too good. He'll just flat out take the ball from you.
So it does start with him, but, again, I think Thad does a great job of getting those guys to play terrific pressure defense, and it's a five man effort out there, but it certainly starts with Craft.

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