It was like Christmas for Buckeye basketball fans, as the Buckeyes opened up the season in exhibition play with a 93-63 win over Walsh university. As many would expect in the first game of the season, many questions were answered and many still loom. Most importantly though, the Bucks took advantage of a true tune up game with a top notch D2 program from the GLIAC conference.
Head Coach Thad Matta went with what many expected to be the starting five this season to open up the game. The two seniors, Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith started at guard, with Sam Thompson at the three, LaQuinton Ross at the four and Amir Williams at the 5.
Early and often, the defensive intensity was spectacular. The best defensive backcourt in the country lived up to it’s reputation. Shannon Scott came off the bench and got three or four blocks and a handful of steals in the first half to help set the tone. Aaron Craft was simply amazing at pushing defenders off to either Lenzelle Smith, Shannon Scott, or Sam Thompson to allow them to get the steal. Ohio State jumped ahead early in part to the 17 turnovers they were able to force in the first half and finished strong.
Craft led the way with 14 points and 5 assists. Smith finished 15 points and 8 boards, while Shannon Scott had a stat stuffing game — 9 points 7 rebounds and 4 assists.
In the post, Amir Williams showed what seems to be major improvement when it came to spacing and fronting the basket. On defense, he used his better positioning and pure athletic ability to block shots and grab some form rebounds The Motor City big man put together 10 rebounds — seven in the first half and added 8 points. Marc Loving showed early as well why he will be a solid option off the bench for coach Matta as a freshman. The Toledo native had some great offensive moves to the basket. His play will be key if the Bucks plan to play with any type of a larger lineup, where LaQuinton Ross can move to the small forward position. We also saw Loving in at power forward in the second half, paired with Ross at the 5. Loving added 9 rebounds, which was great to see from power forward position. He also dropped five points.
Ross, who might be the biggest x-factor of the season played extremely well on offense. Fans know about his range, but it was evident that he has improved his strength in the paint, with many solid drives to the basket. He made five trips to the charity stripe in the game. His offense is right where you hope for it to be to start the season. He tallied 15 points and really showed that he can take over games as needed.
Amedeo Della Valle showed his range from deep. Afroman drained three treys in the ballgame and finished with 14 points.
The only scholarship player not to see time on the floor was Kam Williams, the freshman guard.
Up next for the Buckeyes, a match-up with Morgan State on Saturday to open up the regular season. You can catch the game on the Big Ten Digital Network or Ohio State Radio Network.
I couldn’t believe an entire basketball season had passed us by and I hadn’t yet written a Buckeye Basketball Breakdown. It just goes to show you what the final year of a graduate studies program can do to your soul…and your free time. But those are similar really.
Given how the NCAA Tournament wrapped up, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about what we saw this year from the Buckeyes, and what we might have to look forward to in the future.
I will be the first to admit that I was particularly worried about this team going into Big Ten play. Seeing the Buckeyes meltdown against Duke, struggle with Kansas at home, and generally perform lackadaisically in the first half of every game, I was quite pessimistic on the night of January 4th. I knew the team was growing, I could see their development, but I was extremely worried by what I had seen to that point.
And then the first Illinois game happened the very next day.
Surprisingly, my opinions of the team improved dramatically after that. They fought hard and picked up a pair of wins in that four game stretch, including a huge win against Michigan. They started to clue in to how to play proper basketball, but they were still missing something.
Another Tuesday, another week, another month. Grab your coffee and let’s dive in.
Welcome to a special Ohio State men’s basketball edition. Now that, as far as we’re concerned, basketball season is on, it may be time for some reflection. This article is in two parts; first some commentary on the Ohio State – Wichita State game, then thoughts on the season in general.
Ohio State – Wichita State
Before I get too far into this, I want to acknowledge the beautifully conceived and executed game plan on the part of Gregg Marshall and his WSU team. They clearly identified OSU’s weaknesses and exploited them.
On to Part the First. I was in Ohio over Easter weekend getting some high quality family time, so I did not participate in the ingame live blog, which was probably good, all things considered. What follows are some comments/questions that arose around our television Saturday evening.
The 1st half was as big a clinker as I’ve seen this team have in some time. The offense seemed to me to be completely out of sorts and very passive, settling for jump shots. There seemed to be no ‘learning’ from the 2nd of the Arizona game where aggressive play created higher percentage FG opportunities. The 22 points in Saturday’s 1st half were “driven” by the 24% shooting, and a strange, awful appearance of ‘Bo Ball’. The Buckeyes were 2-10 from 3’s and only attempted 7 free throws. For 20 minutes, Ohio State managed to out-Wisconsin Wisconsin.
At this point, the game turned into Greek myth/tragedy, with the part of Sisyphus played by Ohio State. Six minutes into the game, OSU took the lead, held it for approximately one minute, and then was faced with a series of uphill climbs for the rest of the game. The Buckeyes just couldn’t get any scoring runs going. Since WSU did a good job of getting back on defense, OSU couldn’t get the breakaway baskets they needed and had to resort to a half-court offense, which frankly, isn’t the best.
In January I did a little piece on how I saw the basketball team, up to that point in the season. I harped on five issues, let’s revisit them to see what had changed in the last two and a half months. You may need to toggle between articles. Take your time.
1. This is not that good of a shooting team, particularly in key games
I didn’t think so then, I don’t think so now. Back then they were shooting 46.1%, good for 52nd nationally. The Buckeyes ended the season shooting 45.1%, good for 79th position.
2. This is an inconsistent team
I don’t believe this point has changed much either. Generally, OSU tended to start their games very slow, muddle through the first half’s, then play much more focused and with more energy in the second half.
3. This is a team with no legitimate post presence.
This became more obvious as the season progressed. The Buckeyes played their best ball when they went ‘small’. The formula that ‘Dr. Thad’ concocted was to start Amir Williams to win the opening tip then make substitutions at the first media time out.
4. This team is not fun to watch
They didn’t bore us to death, that’s for sure. This is one issue where I’ve changed my mind. As Thad settled on his starting lineup and substitution patterns, it seemed like the players began to gel as a true team. After the ‘Mauling in Madison’, I think the players stepped up to take responsibility for their actions and executing the game plan. And the results showed. If nothing else, this aspect can be taken as a huge win for the coaches and the players.
5. Coaching Impact
Just to be clear, this pertains to player development, not coaching strategies, etc. My bone of contention was that I had not seen significant, if any, improvement between sophomore and junior years of Craft, Smith Jr and Thomas. My position hasn’t changed on that. However, I saw significant improvement in sophomores Sam Thompson, LaQuinton Ross, and (at the very end of the season) a glimmer of hope this year Amir Williams. Now, if these three can show same improvements between their sophomore to junior year as they did this year, I’d say Thad & Staff have done a very good job.
Not really, no.
My brother and I were discussing this over Sunday morning coffee when he made the observation that ‘ maybe Ohio State overachieved this year.’ The team lost 32 points per game (Sullinger/Buford) and the returning three starters (Thomas/Craft/Smith Jr) contributed 31 ppg. Losing half of your starters’ offensive output provided some challenges of where to find it.
This team may also have been ‘victimized’ by expectations that were set too high. The Buckeyes started out ranked #4 in the country. Why & how eludes me; clearly people should have known that ‘Sully’ and ‘Buf’ had moved on..
Finally, I had commented several times/several places during the course of the season that it would not have surprised me if OSU would lose 10 games during the regular season, due in great part to the above five issues (silly me). The fact that this team came together to finish the season having won 12 of their last 14 games, with an 11 game win streak tossed in, speaks volumes to how the players and coaches figured it out. This speaks very well for all of them.
Some weekend, eh? Grab your coffee and let’s get right to it.
A week that started out fairly well, then crashed and burned. In the NCAA’s, they’ve managed to dust Iowa State 78-75, Arizona 73-70 and then fell flat against Wichita State 66-70. I don’t have much to add to the fine recaps, above, however you can bet that after some musing on my part, I’ll have something to say next week. It seemed that Thad was pushing the right buttons and the team responded in the first two games. On Saturday, things were pretty disjointed. I’d hoped the 2nd half effort against Arizona would carry into the WSU game, but alas, no. Although the offense gott significant points from
senior junior DeShaun Thomas and LQR, that was it, unfortunately.
I hate to do this, but let’s start with a definition: to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest: to hate the enemy. Read More
School: Wichita State University
Location: Wichita, KS
School Type: Public
Student Population: 14,806 total, 11,763 undergrad
Stadium: Charles Koch Arena “The Roundhouse”
Head Coach: Gregg Marshall
Experience: 6th year
After Ohio State lost to Kansas, head coach Thad Matta made a change to his starting lineup.
Out of the starting lineup–at the center position–went fifth-year senior Evan Ravenel and in came sophomore Amir Williams.
In Williams’ first start, an 87-44 victory against Chicago State, he scored just four points and grabbed four rebounds, but only played 15 minutes.
It is very hard to judge the decision off of such a small sample size. One game against a poor opponent makes that difficult. Last night, in Ohio State’s Big Ten opener against Nebraska, Williams started his second game of the season.
The Buckeyes won, 70-44. Williams played just 18 minutes. But, he had eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Nebraska isn’t exactly the Big Ten’s strongest basketball team, but a big test for Williams will be Saturday when the Buckeyes take on Illinois in Champaign.
The move seems to be working for Ravenel too. A lot of players who have waited for their time may not respond well to being taken out of the starting lineup a third of the way through the season. But Ravenel seems to be a great team guy.
He grabbed 10 rebounds against Chicago State and last night he had seven points and two rebounds in 11 minutes.
To me, Ravenel has always seemed like an energy guy anyway. He may have been better suited coming off of the bench from the beginning so he can bring that energy and emotion onto the floor and give this team a spark.
With big men in the Big Ten such as Cody Zeller (Indiana), Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota), Derrick Nix and Adrian Payne (Michigan State), the Buckeyes will need to get a lot of help from the center position.
Whether it be from Williams in the starting lineup or from Ravenel off the bench, the production must be there.
There is simply no amount of Listerine that can wash out the bad taste left in those returning players mouths having endured two losses to Kansas last season; one on December 10, 2011 (78-67) and one at the Final Four in New Orleans on March 31, 2012 (64-62). They will just have to take care of their home court where they have the 5th longest streak for wins against non-conference opponents sitting at 39. WVU was their last home loss in this regard in December of 2008 almost exactly four years ago. Tim Shoemaker did a great Tale of the Tape. Let’s take a look at this top ten battle.
|School:||University of Kansas (KU)|
|Founded:Motto||1865; I shall see this great sight, why the bush does not burn (Exodus 3:3)|
|School Type:||Public, Flagship, Space Grant|
|Stadium:||Allen Fieldhouse “The Phog” named for the father of coaching Dr. Forrest C. “Phog” Allen|
|Built:||March 1, 1955|
|Head Coach:||Bill Self, Oklahoma State, 10th season|
|Experience & Accomplishments||Self was named 2012 Naismith College Coach of the Year, The Sporting News National Coach of the Year in 2000, 2009 and 2012, the Associated Press National Coach of the Year in 2009. He was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year in 2006, 2009, 2011, and 2012. 13 NCAA Tourneys, 1 NCAA Champion, ! Final Four, 6 Conference Tourney Champions, Produced 16 NBA draft picks|
|Program History||The Jayhawks began play in 1898 and have an all-time record of 2079-807 (.720). In 2008, ESPN ranked Kansas second on a list of the most prestigious programs of the modern college basketball era, behind only Duke. Kansas has the longest current streak of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances (23), holds the longest current streak of winning seasons (29), has the most winning seasons in Division I history (93), the most non-losing seasons (.500 or better) in NCAA history (96), the most conference championships in Division I history (55), the most First Team All Americans in Division I history (20), the most First Team All American Selections in Division I history (28), is second in Division I all time winning percentage (.720), and is second in Division I all time wins (2,079)|
The Buckeyes take on 4-4 Winthrop University from the Big South conference in their next match-up and are on a roll since losing to Duke. The Eagles are on a little roll themselves having dispatched the other “Ohio” team as our least favorite buffoon from up north likes to say. The Eagles beat the Bobcats 50-49 with a late push and two final second free throws from their star player. Let’s take a look at the school from Rock Hill, SC.
|Location:||Rock Hill, South Carolina|
|Founded:||1886 – Veritas cum liberate “Truth with Liberty”|
|Head Coach:||Pat Kelsey(Xavier 98) First Season as a head coach|
|Experience & Accomplishments||Before stepping away from basketball following the 2010-11 season, Kelsey was the associate head coach at his alma mater Xavier U. where he spent two seasons. Prior to that he cut his teeth coaching under the late and great Skip Prosser at Wake Forrest and then Dino Gaudio.|
|Program History||The University’s most well-known athletic team is the Men’s basketball team which has earned a berth in nine NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournaments since 1999. Additionally, they have won the Big South Conference Championship in 1988, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010. 6 of the 8 Men’s Basketball team’s championships and national rankings came during Gregg Marshall’s tenure as head coach. Marshall left Winthrop to become the head coach at Wichita State University.|