Many Buckeye basketball fans may just want to fast forward two weeks from Saturday.
Ohio State will host Kansas, the team that beat OSU not once, but twice last season and knocked the Buckeyes out of the NCAA tournament in the Final Four.
But, in fact, OSU can’t afford to fast forward, because between now and then it has four games it must use as a way to improve before the date with the Jayhawks.
Over the next two weeks, Ohio State has games against Long Beach State, Savannah State, UNC Ashville and Winthrop. Four games OSU should win easily, but it needs to get better before Dec. 22.
The Buckeyes were somewhat exposed in their 73-68 loss to Duke. That game made me think of three questions I would like to see answered in the next two weeks before the Kansas game.
1. Who will step up on this year’s team to put the ball in the basket outside of Deshaun Thomas?
Answer: Against Duke, Ohio State Deshaun Thomas was the only player who could consistently score. This may be the case all season, but in order for the Buckeyes to make a deep run this year, somebody else is going to need to score. For me, that guy has to be LaQuinton Ross. In Ohio State’s last game against Northern Kentucky, Ross led the Buckeyes with 22 points. Over these next four games I’d like to see him average around 15 per game, get his confidence up and then see how he performs against Kansas.
2. Will Ohio State have a consistent threat from behind the arc?
Answer: I’m not sure. Ross, Thomas and Lenzelle Smith are all over 40% right now, but I’m not confident they can all stay there. I have an easier time believing Ross and Thomas can maintain that success, but Smith worries me a bit. He shot close to 38% from three last year, but to me he just doesn’t look comfortable. I would love to see him take more threes in these upcoming games and see if he can knock them down with some consistency to make me feel more confident going forward.
3. Will Ohio State develop any inside presence this year?
Answer: If it does, it will have to be Amir Williams. The next two weeks will be extremely important for the sophomore big man because Kansas has Jeff Withey inside and he will dominate Ohio State if Williams and/or Evan Ravenel don’t become more consistent players down low.
These next four games leading up to Kansas will be huge to Ohio State’s growth as a team this season. Hopefully the Buckeyes learned from the Duke loss and will be ready for the Jayhawks.
It all starts on Saturday against Long Beach State.