After a demoralizing loss to the Kansas Jayhawks (again) on the Saturday before Christmas, the Buckeyes get one final tune-up before diving into conference play. Obviously there is still a lot of work for this team to do this year in order to reach their potential. There’s also the small matter of a Christmas wish that needs fulfilling. Let’s take a look.
|School:||Chicago State University|
|Division:||NCAA Division 1|
|Stadium:||Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center|
|Head Coach:||Tracy Dildy|
Chicago State is quite a step down from Kansas in terms of difficulty. They’re #331 in the RPI currently with a 3-11 overall record, and are 0-9 away from home. Their best win was a 67-54 decision against Alabama State. So far, their best opponents have been Notre Dame (92-65 L) and Oregon State (87-77 L). Their last three non-conference games for the pre-season come against Ohio State tomorrow, Toledo on the 31st, and #20 UNLV on January 3rd.
Chicago State does a pretty good job of spreading the scoring around. Of the 4 regulars in their starting lineup, no-one scores less than 9 points per game, though no-one scores more than 11 points per game either. A lot of this has to do with the apparent line-up tinkering the Cougars are doing. They’ve played 12 players this season, and have started 10 of them. There’s no question that they are still working out which lineups work best for their personnel.
Only two players have started every single game for the Cougars. Junior center Mike Ross (6-8, 220, #43), and senior forward Jeremy Robinson (6-9, 225, #31) anchor the inside for Dildy’s squad. Together they average nearly 20 points and 13 rebounds, meaning that most of the team’s strategy will revolve around them. Do not, however, expect a lot of point guard assists setting up dominate post play. Ross is an inside-out kinda guy and likes to shoot as much from beyond the arc as he does from inside.
The starting lineup today is a bit speculative, considering the switching Head Coach Dildy has done. I’m assuming he’ll go with a slightly taller lineup, and not start 5-11 guard Corey Gray like he did against Houston.
|#32||L. Smith Jr.||11||27.455||11.0||44.9||70.0||41.3||4.909||2.091||0.636||0.091||1.727|
Against Kansas, the Buckeyes put up some of the worst shooting we’ve seen in a long time from a Thad Matta coached team. Throughout most of the game they impressively stuck with a clearly superior Kansas squad, but shooting only 30.8% from the floor, and 25.8% from three, is not the way to win those games. Worse yet, they struggled to score the ball inside, netting only 9 points from their bigs, including only three from Evan Ravenel – all from the charity stripe. This cannot continue.
This team absolutely must find scoring in the paint. There is no excuse for the guys inside to have such a hard time scoring the basketball. When the high percentage looks fall, then the lower percentage looks will be more open, and more likely to drop. Of course, we could also turn that around and say the outside shooting has to improve first to open up the inside. My guess is that the answer is probably more the latter, but really a mix of the two. Everybody on the floor needs to start scoring better in general.
But, there are still a lot of great things to say about this team. They’re a great passing team, they share the ball well, and are very good at moving the defense around. They are steal machines that work hard to limit turnovers – against Kansas, the Buckeyes had 8 steals to 13 turnovers, compared to Kansas’s 2 steals to 19 turnovers. In other words, steals were the difference in the turnover numbers (both teams lost the ball 11 times that weren’t counted as steals). This is a hard working team, and someday, if the scoring improves, they might actually look like the team they deserve to be.
A lot of the problems right now are probably coming from being a team made up of relatively young and inexperienced players that are still trying to work out where they fit. As I’ve said repeatedly the past few weeks, that’s going to take time for them to sort out, and they’ll probably have to lose some Big Ten games to get the idea. But at least, for now, they can build on what they’ve learned against Kansas and hopefully demonstrate something better against Chicago State on Saturday.
The Buckeyes will play Chicago State on Saturday, December 29th in Value City Arena. You’ll be able to see that game at 4:30 PM Eastern Time on the Big Ten Network.