Ken, formerly of Silver Bullets, joins our merry band of basketball writers! Make sure to give him a warm welcome.
It’s the start of the conference basketball season, and the Buckeyes get the newest member of the conference at home. Nebraska appears to be having an improved season under new head coach Tim Miles, but we’ll need to see how they do in Big Ten play before we can fairly evaluate their progress. Let’s get to it!
|School:||University of Nebraska – Lincoln|
|Division:||NCAA Division 1|
|Stadium:||Bob Devaney Sports Center|
|Head Coach:||Tim Miles|
We get the new year off with the start of conference play as the 10th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2) host Nebraska (9-4). At first blush, this should be a routine win for the Buckeyes since the Huskers aren’t that good of a team. They were 12-17 last year, their road record this year is 1-2 while the Buckeyes are 8-1 at home. Ohio State is also undefeated against unranked teams this year. Nebraska is clearly an unranked team.
A significant portion of my game preview will be based upon the excellent information at Statsheet. A measure of teams capabilities that I will refer to will be the Four Factors; effective FG%, TO%, Off Rebounds Rate and FT Rate. There will be other metrics thrown in as well, just to flesh out the teams performances.
While Ohio State is averaging 78.3 points on offense and yielding 57.5 on defense, a nearly 21 point differential, Nebraska’s numbers are 61.7 and 60.8, a not-much differential. The below table has the comparative Four Factors as well as possessions per game (PPP), points per possession – offense (PPP-O) and points allowed per possession (PPP-D).
I’m not going to drill too deeply into these numbers, but a quick glance indicates OSU to have an advantage across the board. Ohio State is much more efficient on offense, despite our well documented shooting woes. One possible explanation is that OSU rebound’s their misses better than Nebraska, affording more close range FG attempts.
Fortunately, Nebraska will not put a lot of height on the floor at the same time, which tends to give the Buckeyes fits. Their starting lineup goes 5’9” (not a misprint), 6’2”, 6’4”, 6’10” and 6’11”. Their big men, Ubel and Almeida combine for 40 minutes of game time, so it‘s unlikely OSU will have to deal with both of them on the floor at once for extended periods.. It seems that Rivers (6’7”) will spell either of them.
I would think that Craft/Smith/Scott will match up well with Nebraska’s guards; I’d even hold out hope that Lenzelle may get some post-up moments. I anticipate the Ravenel/Williams tandem to hold their own in low-post situations, and for Thompson and Ross to have beneficial matchups on the wing. I really, really want to see Thomas get involved via screens, cross-lane cuts, whatever, because he appears to be a bit to big for a Husker guard and a bit too quick for a forward to cover him. If nothing else, his tendency to crash the offensive boards will be a big plus for him.
|#32||L. Smith Jr.||12||27.167||11.167||45.5||58.3||40.8||5.0||2.0||0.667||0.167||1.667|
One interesting note is that Miles has tended to get more minutes from his starters than Thad has this season. I know, it just doesn’t sound right, does it? I can think of two likely reasons, one of which is not that Thad is going against form. One possible explanation is that Thad has been doing more early season mixing-and-matching with his lineup to find something that works well. The other possible reason, is that Ohio State has been in a few laughers so far, so there were ample opportunities to empty the bench.
So, what happens? I see the Buckeyes start the game in their usual ‘warm-up’ mode, then about halfway through the 1st half, Thad calls a time out and delivers a Come-to-Naismith talk that reminds the team that this is finally a conference game. It will be a somewhat competitive 1st half, then OSU pulls away in 2nd half. Maybe not a ’Chicago State 2nd half’, but the Buckeyes will clearly exert their will and talent on Nebraska. Actually, I’d like to see OSU put this game away early to be able to rest the starters prior to the Illinois game on Saturday.
I think this squad has been trying to find its rhythm through the pre-conference portion of the schedule, and Nebraska will be a good opening opponent to work out any kinks. Go Bucks.
Tip-off is on January 2nd at 6:00PM at the Value City Arena. The game is televised on the BTN.