Fresh off a complete annihilation of Northwestern, the Buckeyes travel to Assembly Hall for a friendly game of round ball that can be seen on ESPN2 at 6pm EST, 3 PM PST, 1PM Hawaiian (just in case Taylor Graham wants to catch the game), New Year’s Eve. I will be at work, but will be watching the game all the same, bringing you the facts and funny that you’ve grown accustomed to over the past few weeks. The first thing that you’ll notice is that I do my previews a bit different than Michael. We’ll break down the major facets of the game, and assign an advantage to each team. Then we’ll tally it all up and hand out a prediction.
Ohio State is currently 17-5 in games played on NYE, 5-1 as a ranked team. This bodes well for Matta’s squad, especially with Indiana coming off their first loss of the season to Michigan State. The best time the Buckeyes played on the last day of the year was 1960, when they took down St. Bonaventure 84-82 in the last year that they won the NCAA Championship. That game featured the Fab Three of Havlicek, Knight and Lucas. Jerry put up gaudy numbers in that game, posting 32 points on 13 of 20 and grabbing a manly 21 boards.
While Indiana holds the lead in the overall series 99-74, the Bucks have the streak going at 6 games, their longest such streak in the series. The last time that the Hoosiers were victorious was a close 72-69 game in Bloomington on 2/26/08. Matta himself is 9-5 against the Hoosiers all time and is looking to cap the year off with the squad’s second B1G win.
The Hoosiers come into this game bringing the 8th highest scoring team in the country at 83.3 points per game and shooting just over 50% from the field, good for 6th best in the land. Freshman Forward Cody Zeller leads the team in points per game with 14.2 and is second on the squad in FG% at 65%. A middle of the road free throw shooter, Zeller consistently gets his double digit points, with the lone anomalies coming against Chattanooga (7 pts) and MSU (4 pts). The Buckeyes, particularly Sullinger, need to contain Zeller and limit his looks in the paint.
In contrast, the Buckeyes are 24th in the land in PPG (79.2), and 14th in FG% (49.2%). Historically, when the Buckeyes only score between 70-79, they are 17-15 overall. They need to bump that point total into the high 80s to low 90s, where they completely dominate their competition. William Buford needs to have another 16/4/4 game and come out firing, as opposed to the lackadaisical way the Bucks have been starting games as of late. If all players play to their averages, it won’t be enough. Sully and Buford need to contribute early and widen the lead against Indiana, to keep the pressure off.
The Indiana rebounding is absolutely atrocious. That’s actually sugarcoating the situation. They rank 136th in the nation in rebounds, with Zeller grabbing the most per game at just under 7. To their credit, 68% of those rebounds come off the defensive glass, led by Zeller’s 64% defensive rebound percentage. The Hoosiers average about 9 steals per game about 3 times what Aaron Craft does on his own. Their blocks come in at about 3.5 per game as a team, again with Zeller in the lead with 1.5 per contest. They rank the lowest in the conference in fouls per game with nearly 18, which means that the Buckeyes will almost certainly see the double bonus, and may see it early in the second half.
The Buckeyes are slightly better at rebounding, coming in at 83rd in the country with 37.4 per game, led by Jared Sullinger’s Booty, who averages a whopping 9.6 per game (77% coming on the defensive glass). Steals are a healthy 8.4/game, with Swoon Craft leading with just under 3. The squad ranks 5th in the B1G in fouls per game at 15.6, so it’s likely that Indiana will also see the double bonus as well, but probably not until the under-8.
Advantage: Ohio State
Indiana’s Tom Crean is in his 4th Year Year as head coach of the Hoosiers, compiling a record of 40-67 over those years. His team is a surprising 12-1 on the season, the lone loss the above mentioned 15 point drop to MSU. Cody Zeller is this team’s best player, and to win, the Hoosiers need him to break from his slump against Izzo’s squad and come out shooting and grabbing boards.
Thad Matta is in his 8th year as head coach of the Buckeyes, and has been phenomenal since he came to Columbus. He posts a record of 203-58 with 4 conference titles, 3 B1G Tourney Titles, 5 NCAA Tourney Appearances, and an NIT title. We all know about Jared Sullinger, the Preseason Player of the Year, but honestly, I have to say that this team’s most important player is William Buford. The others feed on Buford’s intensity, and when Will is off, so is everyone else. Buford needs to perform above his averages for the squad to feel comfortable.
Advantage: Ohio State
Ohio State will build off their quick start against Nerdwestern and come out slinging the ball. Buford will post a 23/6/4 game while Sully will get 22/10/2 for yet another Double Double (Animal Style). Sullinger will shut down Zeller and make Indiana’s outside shooter pick up the slack, but it won’t be enough.
Final Score: OSU 87, IU 74
So come by during the game and chat with us, as we’ll be running the Live Blog. I’ll be here, and I hope I won’t be lonely. See you tomorrow at tip off. Hopefully IU has a sound dampener for the montage, to make sure that Kevin Noon’s eardrums have a break.