#1 Seed Purdue (1-0) vs. #13 Seed Ohio State (3-0)
Saturday, March 11th, 2023, Noon EST
Big 10 Tournament Semifinal
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
Ohio State Starting Lineup
Ohio State Bench
|Eugene Brown III
|Niagara Falls, NY
Ohio State On Offense
First, through injury, Ohio State is a very different team than they were in their 82-55 loss at the hands of Purdue on February 19th. Without dedicated center Zed Key, freshman Felix Okpara has been thrust into a starting role while forwards Brice Sensabaugh and Justice Sueing rotating in to help out as undersized centers. Sensabaugh himself is a game-time decision for the tournament matchup with the Boilermakers.
However, in this tournament, it seems to be working for them. The 13 seed has won three games in a row after winning only three games between January 2nd and and the end of the regular season. Offensively, they’ve always been very capable and just seemed to keep letting games slip away from them in the final minutes. That hasn’t been the case thus far in the tourney.
Their adjusted offensive efficiency remains impressive at 115.9, ranked 21st in men’s hoops. They’re a B+ shooting team that takes great care of the ball. The Buckeyes’ effective field goal percentage sits at a 94th-ranked 52.0, shooting 46.6% from three (48th) and 50.7 (166th). Only allowing steals on 7.1% of possessions (8th) and only having 7.1% of their shots blocked (42nd), if this team starts to get hot, they’re a threat to build quick multi-possession leads.
They work well in space and with their new lineup, the Buckeyes will likely set up with four up top with Okpara isolated down low. When they play their small ball lineup though, all bets are off as to how they set up the offense. Expect a lot of crowding the lane and quick cuts off the ball for Ohio State looking for any one of the team’s skilled outside shooters (who certainly aren’t the smallest guys and can get physical around the paint).
With the thin lineup and the possibility of missing Sensabaugh, there’s little room for error for the Buckeyes, and they better hope they have another great game from long range.
Ohio State on Defense
Like I said last time, this is where things went wrong for Ohio State is the downward spiral that began in early January. That said, things have improved a lot statistically for the Buckeyes since their last meeting with the Boilermakers. Their adjusted efficiency has risen to 97th in the country with a rating of 101.6, they’re a decent blocking team 10.3% of opponents’ possessions, 90th), and don’t allow the deep ball very often (opponents shoot 31.8%, 60th).
Most of their other stats are right around the national average, aside from one glaring one: they are still so, SO bad at creating turnovers. If you let an offense like Purdue play the way they want to play with little threat of deflecting a pass or showing any aggression at the top of the key, Matt Painter’s team will eventually find rhythm even after the hypothetical slow start.
Ohio State’s going to have to be more aggressive in forcing errors and stealing the ball, and with a thin lineup they’ll be fatigued in the final few minutes if they commit to the full court press early on. Combine that with the fact that a few undersized guys and a relatively inexperienced freshman center are tasked with limiting Zach Edey and there will be some gassed Buckeyes by game’s end. I’ll take this excerpt from the last time I previewed Ohio State:
For the Boilermakers, this is the ideal matchup when it comes to the hypothetical of returning to the ways of scoring quickly, efficiently, and, most importantly, setting up the offense in the way that makes the players comfortable while knowing the opposing defense is most likely going to commit to the press early while not being very good at it.
Purdue won by 27 points.
X-Factor - Outside Shooting
This goes for both teams. For Purdue, more quick outside shots with Edey near the rim please. This can’t be a game where the Boilers hover around 50 shot attempts. Unless they go incredibly cold from mid- and long-range, Purdue should be just fine and move on to the final round of play.
If you’re Ohio State, you likely can’t win this game without a better-than-average three point shooting game even by their own high standards. If this team has trouble knocking down their typical shots, it could be a repeat of the two teams’ meeting in February.
Purdue - 74
Ohio State - 68
Purdue - 76
Ohio State - 65
Ohio State is a great story in this tournament and is playing great basketball with their new oddball rotation. But with more injuries piling up and already having played three days in a row, you have to question when fatigue will be an issue. Combine that with the season’s theme of letting games slip away, and I think this is a back-and-forth matchup for about 34 minutes before Purdue slowly pulls away.