Ohio State begins league play this evening when it hosts the Cornhuskies from Nebrasky. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30pm ET in Value City Arena and will be shown on Big Ten Network, if you have it.
Ohio State begins conference play with considerably more questions than this time last year. Though Ohio State has only one more loss by this time than last year’s team, the losses to Duke and Kansas (again) underscore considerably more uncertainty about this team. Ohio State finds itself missing the production and inside presence of Jared Sullinger a little more than fans thought they would. The inside options we have at the moment, Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams, are hit and miss, to put it lightly. Trey McDonald provides a nice change of pace, but his high effort belies his ability in a lot of aspects. Further, Ohio State seems unable to make the jump shots it loves to take. Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, and Deshaun Thomas, the three main hold-overs from last year’s team, shot 50%, 52% and 47% from the floor last year. This year, so far: 38%, 45%, and 45% respectively. Three point shooting has (marginally) improved from last year’s team, but you wouldn’t know it from watching the team play.
On the other bench, Nebrasky comes to town with first year head coach, and ever colorful, Tim Miles. The team has one more loss in non-conference play than last year’s squad, but one of the wins includes a demolition of hapless Wake Forest in Winston-Salem for the ACC/B1G TEN Challenge. However, this team was also put on full-blast by Kent State (74-60), mid-major heavyweight Creighton (64-42), Oregon (60-38), and Texas-El Paso (68-52). The Buckeyes are #8, but also quite possibly a paper tiger this season. The Cornhuskies, though, are underdogs in this contest and not a trendy pick for postseason play in March.
Miles will count on veterans to lead the way in Value City Arena this evening. Senior guard Dylan Talley (#24) leads the team in scoring with 13.9 points per game, and is also second on the team in rebounds per game with nearly six boards per contest. Conversely, senior forward Brandon Ubel (#13) is second on the team in points per game with 13.2 points per game, but leads all his teammates in rebounds per game (6.5rpg). Senior center Andre Almeida (#32), of Brazil, adds 7.6 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game, albeit in just 18 minutes per contest. Junior guard Ray Gallegos (#15) leads the team in minutes played and adds another 13 points per contest. Diminutive (5’9) guard Benny Parker (#3) and 6’7 forward David Rivers (#2) should also see plenty of time this contest.
Nebrasky is not the best team in the conference, far from it. Under first year head coach Tim Miles, it would be a surprise to see this team play in either the NIT or the NCAA Tournament. Still, and obviously more important for our sake, this Ohio State team is significantly removed from last year’s Final Four team. Ohio State fans should hope to see some type of answer to the problems exposed from the two losses to Duke and Kansas in the last calendar year. Hopefully the new calendar year brings new, and pleasant, surprise for this season’s squad.