NCAA Tournament Bulls Recon: Ohio Roundtable Featuring The Hustle Belt and MAC Report Online

Welcome to a special Ohio Roundtable edition of Bulls Recon. Today we have bmiraski from our MAC blog The Hustle Belt and J. Scott Fitzwater from MAC Report Online to talk some Bobcats basketball. Today we talk about Ohio' big win over Michigan, D.J. Cooper, and who will be heading to St. Louis.

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1. Great win against Michigan Friday. How did the Ohio upset the Wolverines?

HB: Well, let's start with the obvious: Ohio got very lucky to be matched up with Michigan. Ohio doesn't have enough size to compete with any of the other 4 seeds in the tournament, and probably could have only done what it did against a guard-dominated lineup like Michigan.

That said, Ohio played a perfect game. They shot surprisingly well for the Bobcats. They defended like they normally do. They forced Michigan into turnovers and converted those on the fast break.

Of course, D.J. Cooper put on a show, but he got a lot of help from Ivo Baltic and Walter Offutt. Everyone just thinks of him as a shooter, but he can pass too. But more on that in a bit.

MRO: The first half was critical. The defense was good all night, and they were able to string enough jumpers together to make one big run and get a 13-point lead late in the half. Michigan never made a big run of their own, so they had to try and chip away at the lead. But Ohio is very resilient and always had an answer to every Wolverine jab. Depth played a factor, too; the Bobcats were relatively fresh at the end and Michigan looked pretty gassed.

2. Can you give us a brief breakdown of what the Bobcats like to run on offense and defense?

HB: Offense: Can you say chuck it up and pray? Ohio takes a lot of shots, and on days when that is working, well, they do well. When it isn't... things get a little bit risky. As I said, they don't have size. But that doesn't mean that Coop won't try to take it to the hoop, or attempt to find Baltic on a motion play.

But you can be pretty sure that Ohio will live and die from 15 feet and back.

Defense: It isn't quite 40 minutes of hell, but the pressure that Ohio will put on the opposing guards could make a lot of teams believe it was. Expect double teams on the ball handler and a lot of in-your-face basketball. Inside, Ohio might just let you score.

MRO: The offense runs through DJ Cooper. You'll see a lot of high ball screens, which give Cooper a lot of options. If given space, he can pull up for three. If he has a mismatch, he can drive. If he gets doubled, he'll find the open man. They space the floor incredibly well and know how to create open looks. And though it didn't happen Friday, they want to get out in transition, run, and get points on the fast break. The defense is mostly in-your-face man-to-man. They want to create turnovers and start the transition game. They're also looking to take charges whenever they can, too. They rotate beautifully, which allows them to hedge on most screens.
3. The matchup between D.J. Cooper and Anthony Collins has to be the matchup of the game. Can you tell us what makes Cooper so dangerous?

HB: I think that Coop just has no fear: No fear from the opposing defense, as he is willing to go inside against much bigger players; No fear from the 3-point line; No fear from the wrath of his coach, John Groce when he unleashes some wild shots.

Coop never met a shot he didn't like. The good news is that he can make most of them, and when he gets rolling, it is very hard to stop him.

But he also had a great court sense, and ability to find the open man. There is a reason he could have been the MAC player of the year. He is an ultimate weapon on offense, with a big man's game, in a small man's body.

MRO: He can do everything. His season numbers aren't pretty, but look at how he elevates his game in the postseason: In four games, he's 15-of-33 from three and has 25 assists. He rebounds well for a 5'11" guard. He already has the school record for assists and will get the steal record soon. If there's an open man, he'll find it... and often in a way you didn't see. He's the kind of player that just does whatever he wants out there.

4. What kinds of teams gave Ohio trouble during the season?

HB: Big teams tend to give Ohio problems. Because they shoot a lot, they can easily have one-shot possessions against teams that dominate the paint.

Not that they can't compete against them: they beat Akron twice with 7-0 Zeke Marshall, and they almost took out Louisville earlier this season.

They just have to work that much harder against them to make it happen.

Also, if you have guards that are very good with the ball, and not many teams do, the main pressure weapon the Bobcats use on defense goes away.

MRO: Well... teams that fit USF's profile. Big, strong, rebounds well, slows the game down, plays zone. But they beat Michigan and Akron playing the styles Michigan and Akron preferred.

5. Finally, and predictions for the game?

HB: Coop gets his 20, and Reggie Keely comes off the bench to score 15, as Ohio finally wears down South Florida, 60-57.

Not that I am at all confident about this, but it would be great to have a MAC team playing into the next weekend.

MRO: I'm not a fan of predictions. But these teams seem pretty evenly matched, so I'll go with the team that has the best player and is better rested, which is Ohio.

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Thanks again to both bmiraski and J. Scott for helping us out today. Make sure to head over The Hustle Belt where I answered some questions for bmiraski, and MAC Report Online who should have a USF-Ohio preview up later today.


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