Tonight the Buckeye basketball team plays for a spot in the Elite 8. Standing in their way is the Tennessee Volunteers, the only team in the country this year to beat both Kansas and Kentucky — generally regarded by the pundits, at least, as the two best teams in the land. Tennessee and Ohio State have a bit of a rivalry going; they played twice in 2007, including a come-from-behind victory by the Buckeyes in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, and another regular season game in 2008 won by Tennessee.
Tennessee plays the press, which is not a style Ohio State has seen much during the regular season. For the Buckeyes, the press will present significant challenges. Evan Turner, as the point guard, will have to work harder to get the ball upcourt and watch for the trap; David Lighty will probably do more ball-handling in the backcourt as a result. If they Buckeyes can break the press, they will need to take advantage. Jon Diebler will have to get to good spots and knock down open three-pointers, and William Buford and Dallas Lauderdale will need to finish if the Buckeyes can get an advantage on the break. Because the Buckeyes typically don’t play many players fatigue could be a factor, and any foul trouble could be a serious problem.
To advance in the NCAA Tournament you need to beat the best teams around, and Tennessee definitely belongs in that category. The Tournament also requires teams to adjust to different styles, like Tennessee’s press, if they want to move forward. I expect that Thad Matta and his staff have worked hard this week on schemes to beat the press. Tonight we’ll see if that work bears fruit.