Where? Value City Arena
When? 9 pm
Channel? Big Ten Network1
Yes, shooty hoops.
Ohio State’s football team travels to West Lafayette tomorrow to play the Boilermakers, hoping to continue on a pace that could land them in the B1G Championship Game after all. Meanwhile, Thad Matta’s retooled basketball team starts their season ranked #3 in the country, hoping to finally bring home the school’s second national championship, albeit with a significantly retooled roster.
The opponent is Wright State, the basketball team representing the collective aspirations of the fair and noble people of the venerable state of Wright. Ohio State basketball’s tack toward in-state school diverges considerably from its football team. Whereas the football program (regrettably) likes to keep its cupcakes local, the Buckeyes shooty hoops program — lacking some of the natural attraction of its football counterpart — likes to search for more interesting squads that might be foreign to the typical Ohioan. It’s a source of frustration for some squads around the state, but it sometimes leads to peculiar matchups that interest people like me (something I wish the football team would do more often). As such, Ohio State has faced Wright State only twice in the Buckeyes’ history. Ohio State won both encounters.
Thad Matta is 11-0 in season openers as a head coach. Ohio State is 90-18 all-time in home openers and 86-22 all-time in season openers regardless of venue. We’re also really good this year, even with a ton of new faces, and Wright State projects as the 8th best team in the Horizon League. Perhaps Buckeye fans should be more interest in speculating about the inevitable 12+ minutes of garbage time we will (hope to) see on Friday night. Therein, Buckeye fans should watch who is on the court and under what circumstances. Shannon Scott will be a player to watch with keen interest. The true freshman from Alpharetta, Georgia has impressed so many observers (and, importantly, coaches) with his ability to handle the rock that he projects as more than just a 6th man point guard like teenage heartthrob Aaron Craft was last year. Scott will see time on the court concurrent with Craft, moving Craft to a 2-guard role. This assumes that Craft’s distance jump shot has improved from freshman year to sophomore year, which would make him a viable weapon. This also assumes Scott is reliable in actual game time. He struggled with some turnovers against Walsh.
Elsewhere, watch the center and guard rotation through this game. The team is anchored by senior William Buford and future lottery pick Jared Sullinger (assuming the NBA comes back, which I hope is never). Deshaun Thomas we expect to be a reliable scorer without being our Antoine Walker (oh God no), and he will play important minutes. Craft and Lenzelle Smith are the starting guards. Against Walsh, Matta preferred to substitute in Amir Williams (another true freshman) and Evan Ravenel (the Boston College transfer) to play alongside Sullinger, thus moving Sullinger to more of a power forward role. Williams has promise, but will likely struggle out of the gates. Look for Ravenel to impress the casual Buckeye fan. Meanwhile, look for Smith to be head of a guard by committee rotation that will also include every other guard and small forward on the roster. In short, expect a liberal substitution policy from Matta like that unseen in the 2009-10 season. Matta has weapons to replace the weapons he lost from last year’s squad. How he assembles it will be worth watching as the season gets underway.
These are all nice questions to be asking ourselves, assuming we’re going to rout Wright State. The Raiders lost its four top scorers from last year, though retain important players from last year’s bench rotation. Julius Mays, who transferred from NC State, is eligible to play this year and will be a vital player for Wright State going forward. As will any of the eight freshman Wright State has on the squad.
Live blog is below, if’n that’s okay with you.
- This importantly assumes JoePa coverage hasn’t bumped anything. I don’t think it will. Hell, Big Ten Network was showing a TTUN v. Nerdwestern football replay in lieu of a lot of the Joe Paterno aftermath. [↩]