While visions of revenge on the Illini dance in your head, the Buckeye hoopsters start their season tonight with a exhibition tilt against NAIA Division II Walsh University, who has already played three games.
The Cavaliers lost an exhibition game to Akron 83-81, but have won two regular season games by an average of 43 points. Thad Matta doesn't have a senior on his team, so this could be an interesting contest. Perhaps that is why the BTN execs decided to spare us, airing the game only on webcast.
I personally think this Buckeye team can make it back to the dance, if they gel earlier than last year and a couple of go-to players emerge, starting with tonight. It may be tough to watch on your computer screen, but here are a few things to look for if you are able to catch the game.
1. Improvement from last year: There is no doubt Evan Turner and Dallas Lauderdale are going to play key roles in any Buckeye success. Turner showed flashes of brilliance throughout his freshman season and was the only Buckeye picked for preseason honors this year. However, he had a bad habit of turning the ball over and with an expected increase in touches, Tuner has to take better care of the rock if OSU is to have success.
I think Dallas Lauderdale could be the key to Ohio State's season. The sophomore banged against Kosta Koufos in practice last year and dominated BJ Mullins in the early going of camp this year. He won't see the floor tonight due to injury, but he is on the verge of returning and will be ready to go in the opener next week, just in time to be the breakout player in the Big Ten, hopefully.
2. Point Guard Competition: For the first time in three years, Ohio State has a question mark at point guard. I appreciate P.J. Hill's effort, but OSU is in deep trouble if they have to rely on him to lead this team. The competition should be between JUCO transfer Jeremie Simmons and freshman Anthony, don't call me Noopy, Crater.
Chris was impressed with both of them during the open practice, enjoying their contrasting styles and competitive nature. Simmons will look for his shot when available, but Crater is more of a distributor.
3. Will Mullens follow Diebler's footsteps: Jon Diebler's shooting struggles from last year are well known and he came from a Division II school. BJ Mullins played in the same division and is rated by Rivals as the top player in the country. If Mullens can give Ohio State a legit inside presence and show the toughness it takes in the Big Ten, the driving lanes for Lighty and Turner should open up, creating an exciting team to watch.
4. Man defense vs. Match up zone: Thad had to implement the deadly match up zone just three days before the regular season last year, due to the inability of the bigs to recover after a screen. This move forced OSU to mostly play a 3/4 court match up zone, which gave teams absolute fits and the Bucks finished in the top 10 in FG defense. I'm sure we will see man defense against Walsh, but tonight's performance could determine which route Matta has to take.
5. Freshmen Impact: Besides BJ Mullens and Crater, Thad brought in William Buford and Walter Offut, two wing players who will add depth to the Bucks rotation. Buford is a slashing scorer who should instantly help the offense, while Offut looks to be fully recovered from his knee injury last year, it just may take some time for him to get back on track.