Ohio State is definitely a football school, but the Buckeyes are trying their best to be a great basketball school too. With Thad Matta as one of the top ten highest paid college basketball coaches in the nation, it is expected for Ohio State basketball to succeed throughout the basketball season and eventually in March. After missing the tournament last year and losing in the second round of the NIT, Matta is on the hot seat in Columbus. It seems such a long time ago that Ohio State lost in the Final Four to the Kansas Jayhawks. But that was just 2012. That also happens to be the year that the Buckeyes last made it to the Sweet Sixteen. After returning nearly every key player a year ago, expectations are high for Matta and company.
After an off-season where Ohio State lost nearly their entire 2015 recruiting class, things were looking down. Daniel Giddens (C) transferred to Alabama, A.J. Harris (G) transferred to New Mexico State, Austin Grandstaff (G) transferred to DePaul, and Mickey Mitchell (F) transferred to UC Santa Barbara. However, the additions of center Micah Potter, forward Andre Wesson, and JUCO guard C.J. Jackson helped counteract those losses.
Through eight games of the regular season, the Buckeyes currently hold a 7-1 record. The lone loss came in the ACC/Big Ten challenge against the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville, VA 63-61. The Buckeyes were up by as many as 16 against the at-the-time #6 team in the country, but 20 turnovers and a choke eventually cost them the game. The rest of their games have included lackluster wins over Navy (10 points), NC Central (6 points), Western Carolina (28 points), Jackson State (31 points), Marshall (41 points), and Fairleigh Dickinson (8 points). Their most impressive win to date is a five-point victory over the Providence Friars. The wins may not be blowouts in games against Navy, NC Central, Providence, and Fairleigh Dickson, but they are winning games they should be winning.
The remainder of their non-conference schedule includes unimpressive Florida Atlantic, Youngstown State, and UNC Asheville. Currently, Connecticut could be thrown in there as they are 3-4 with losses to Wagner and Northeastern, a three-point victory over Loyola Marymount, and a two-point win over Boston University. UCLA has the potential to be a competitive game, but expect UCLA to run away with that game.
In what looks to be a down year for the Big Ten in basketball, Ohio State must capitalize on that opportunity. The Indiana Hoosiers should win the conference but every place behind them is wide open. Michigan State has four losses, albeit to ranked teams, but a one-point win over Florida Gulf Coast and four-point win over Oral Roberts looks disgusting. Maryland needed a late surge to defeat the underwhelming Georgetown Hoyas and has wins by six or less against American, Towson, Richmond, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State. Purdue appears to be well-rounded but they’ve lost to Villanova and Louisville. Iowa, who finished last year with 11 losses, already has five including a loss to the Omaha Mavericks. The Badgers have losses to Creighton and North Carolina. The Wolverines have losses to undefeated South Carolina and a one-loss Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes are one of the most experienced in the conference and hopefully should come out near the top.
Five players are averaging double digit points per game: Jae’Sean Tate (14.0 PPG), Kam Williams (12.6 PPG), Marc Loving (11.8 PPG), JaQuan Lyle (10.9 PPG), and Keita Bates-Diop (10.3 PPG). Loving also happens to be the only senior on the team. Trevor Thompson and Micah Potter provide the Buckeyes with a much-needed center and interior presence in the paint. C.J. Jackson and Andre Wesson provide the Buckeyes with more depth. Thompson leads the team in rebounds with nearly eight a game while JaQuan Lyle (5.4 APG) and C.J. Jackson (4.6 APG) love to dish it out. Ohio State basketball is trending upwards and looks to make an impact in the NCAA Tournament, but they need to get there first. They have the experience and the talent, and it will be interesting to follow the boys in the next few months. The Buckeyes will host Florida Atlantic on December 6.