(The Sports Network)
The top-seeded Ohio State Buckeyes were dominant in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament as expected, and they will attempt to avoid an upset today at the hands of the eighth-seeded George Mason Patriots.
A trip to the Sweet 16 will be awarded to the winner of this game, and the opponent will be fourth-seeded Kentucky.
The Patriots trailed Villanova for much of Friday's meeting, but a late surge and a clutch three-pointer enabled Jim Larranaga's team to knock off the Wildcats in a 61-57 final. George Mason is appearing in just its sixth NCAA Tournament and is now 5-5 all-time in the event. The four other victories came during the 2006 run to the Final Four, as the program knocked off Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State and Connecticut to capture the attention of the college basketball world. This year's team is now 27-6 overall and won the Colonial Athletic Association regular season title.
As for Ohio State, it crushed Texas-San Antonio in the second round as expected, 75-46. The Buckeyes are now 46-25 in 27 NCAA Tournament appearances and are in search of their second national title and first in over half a century. Head Coach Thad Matta has led OSU to four Big Ten titles in six years, and the team currently owns a 33-2 overall record after winning the league's regular season and conference championships. The Buckeyes' 29 regular season victories set a new school record.
With regard to the all-time series between these two teams, Ohio State has won all three previous meetings.
George Mason connected on only 40.4 percent of its field goal attempts against Villanova on Friday, including a 36 percent effort in the first half. The Patriots finished 4-of-14 from three-point range, but they played strong defense in the tilt, holding the Wildcats to 36.5 percent field goal efficiency. Sophomore Luke Hancock drained a three-pointer from the left side with 21 seconds remaining to lift George Mason to victory, and he led the squad with 18 points and five assists. Mike Morrison posted 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Isaiah Tate registered 10 points as well. Through 33 outings this season, the Patriots are generating 73.0 ppg while allowing 61.4 ppg to opponents on just 40.5 percent shooting from the field. Cam Long was quiet against Villanova, but he averages a team-high 15.0 ppg. Ryan Pearson, who was also held in check in the second round, provides 14.2 ppg and 6.8 rpg, while Hancock adds 10.9 ppg and more than four assists per contest.
On Friday, Ohio State connected on 62.5 percent of its field goal attempts in the first half against Texas-San Antonio, including a sizzling 6-of-10 effort from three-point range, and led 37-21 at intermission. The Buckeyes cruised to victory in the second half, and the starters got some extra rest in anticipation of today's matchup. William Buford led a balanced attack against UTSA with 18 points, and Jon Diebler posted 14 points. Deshaun Thomas contributed 13 points and eight rebounds, while star freshman Jared Sullinger chipped in with 11 points and nine boards. Sullinger has been one of college basketball's best players this season, and he currently leads his squad with 17.0 ppg and 10.1 rpg. Buford adds 14.5 ppg, while Diebler nets 12.5 ppg on 50 percent shooting from three-point range. Swingman David Lighty contributes 11.7 ppg for OSU, which is generating 77.0 ppg while limiting foes to 59.4 ppg.
Expect plenty of Buckeyes' fans to make the short trip to Cleveland for today's affair. George Mason will play hard, but Ohio State is the class of this tournament and will win convincingly.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 85, George Mason 71