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Preview: Iona vs. Ohio State

Preview: Iona vs. Ohio State

Ohio State took kindly to a No. 2 seed in last year's NCAA Tournament and raced to its third Final Four appearance in 14 seasons. The streaking Buckeyes were granted the No. 2 seed once again and will open the tournament against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Iona in the second round Friday in nearby Dayton. Ohio State has won eight straight and seized the Big Ten tournament crown for the third time in four years with a 50-43 win over Wisconsin on Sunday.

The Buckeyes have been doing it with defense, giving up an average of 52.8 points during the winning streak. That style will be tested by the offensive-minded Gaels, who earned an at-large bid last season before squandering a 25-point lead to Brigham Young in a brutal first-round loss - also at Dayton. Iona enters as one of only three teams in the country averaging at least 80 points. It finished tied for fourth in the MAAC before emerging from the tournament with three consecutive close wins. Conference Player of the Year Lamont Jones battled through flu-like symptoms to win tournament MVP honors. The winner of Friday's tilt plays either Notre Dame or Iowa State in the third round.

TV: 7:15 p.m. ET, CBS

ABOUT IONA (20-13): With an average of 23 points, Jones enters the tournament as its second-leading scorer behind Creighton's Doug McDermott. Jones, like the rest of his team, carries with him a bit of extra motivation following last season's loss. He shot 3-for-14, missed all six of his 3-pointers and finished with six points in the loss to BYU. Jones has plenty of help if he struggles this time around. Junior guard Sean Armand was the top 3-point shooter in the MAAC and averaged 16.6 points, David Laury chipped in 13.1 and three others average at least seven points for the explosive Gaels. Tre Bowman had a game-high 20 points in a win over Manhattan in the MAAC tournament title game.

ABOUT OHIO STATE (26-7): There was a stretch early in the Big Ten portion of the Buckeyes' schedule when a slight flaw emerged. Deshaun Thomas was playing great basketball, but getting very little help. While Thomas was the only Ohio State player to score in double figures against Wisconsin, the team as a whole has been more balanced lately - making it a more legitimate threat to win six straight games against quality opponents. Guard Aaron Craft has scored at least 14 points in four of his last seven games. Forward Sam Thompson averaged 11.9 points during the Big Ten tournament and forward LaQuinton Ross hit 6-of-9 3-pointers during that stretch. Still, Ohio State will go only as far as Thomas takes it. He averaged 21.8 points in the team's four tournament wins last year before being limited to just nine on 3-for-14 shooting in the loss to Kansas in the national semifinals.

TIP-INS

  1. Armand, who made 41.2 percent of his 3-pointers, has shot just 11-for-36 (30.6 percent) from the arc in his last six games.

  2. Dayton is roughly an hour drive from the Ohio State campus.

  3. The schools have split two previous meetings, with Ohio State claiming the last victory in 2008.

PREDICTION: Ohio State 76, Iona 63