I’m throwing this up as a blog post because I’d rather just type some observations from last night rather than spend a bunch of time packaging it all together. It was an exhibition, after all.
First, as I’m hoping most of you already understand, there’s no need to panic after Ohio State’s unimpressive and basically sluggish 83-71 win last night in front of 9,000 fans in the Schott.
As he should at this point in the season, Thad was focused on getting lots of guys on the floor and using certain combinations to see who gels with whom. From my seat just behind the scorers table this was made abundantly clear as OSU subs were flying to the table in a way you won’t see come January.
I don’t care what anyone, including Thad, says about the supposed depth on this team. I do think he’ll play more than the six to seven guys he typically uses but talk of nine or 10 guys playing regularly is not going to happen. Eight guys are going to see the bulk of the minutes (Craft, Smith, Tank, Q, Amir, Scott, Thompson and Ravenel). Amedeo Della Valle will only carve out a role if he can hit the three on a night when nobody else can. He comes with a basketball IQ but it looked to me like he’s still adjusting to the speed of the game in Columbus. I think he has a future her, I’m just not sure he’ll see the floor in a big game this season unless fouls/injury dictate otherwise.
Regarding the small margin of victory, I think a few things were at play. First, it looked almost as if Thad got in Craft’s ear and told him to slow the tempo to see how the guys played in the half court, especially in the first half, because he knows they can out run/athlete a lot of teams but he doesn’t know what these can do in the half court especially when using a basic motion offense as opposed to set plays. Second, the Buckeyes not only ran very few set plays (many probably aren’t even installed yet) but they also didn’t use the high pick on the wing as much as they normally do to get Craft coming off a screen toward the middle of the floor to initiate the offense. Later in the game, they used a lot of high ball screens and Deshaun took advantage knocking down a hand full of jumpers off the pick and pop.
A few other team items I noticed…
The rebounding was pathetic in general but the offensive rebounding was an embarrassment. The Buckeyes had just nine o-boards and could only muster a 33-33 tie on the glass overall.
Though the rebounding was garbage, the Buckeyes do have some guys besides Craft that are very strong on-ball defenders. When the Buckeyes did decide to turn up the intensity – ie. the defensive pressure – they went on a 17-3 run to close the half, forcing eight Walsh turnovers on their final 12 possessions.
This team is going to be streaky with the 3’s and has to be careful not become lazily reliant on throwing up shots from outside early in the clock. They shot 15 threes out of 28 total 1st Half field goals last night (making just four) but then took only four treys in the 2nd half.
Craft is Craft. He does so many things that aren’t in the box score. One example is how insanely hard he shadows his man and takes away passing lanes when a fellow defender gets a ‘stick’ (opposing offensive player picks up the ball, losing his dribble). He did pick up his 3rd foul in not so impressive fashion but that’s nitpicking one of the smartest, toughest players I’ve ever seen at Ohio State.
Instead of spoon feeding Deshaun early, Craft went out of his way to get other players involved and was the only Buckeye not named Sam Thompson that was consistently talking on the defensive end of the floor. He had six assists in 28 minutes and didn’t really look to score at all. The only knock offensively was that he didn’t effectively drive and dish much in this one.
Thomas struggled in the middle portion of the first half, forcing shots and turning it over a couple times on forced passes and/or dribble drives. Excepting about an 8-10 minute stretch, he was pretty damn good helping fuel the end of half run with back to back And-1’s that included OSU’s first offensive board of the night at around the 1:39 mark. Overall, six of his 17 shots were from distance and Thad will probably live with that most nights as long as Thomas can hit around a 38+% clip. Last night he hit just one.
LaQuinton Ross looked like the young player that he is. He looked very good at times and lost at other points. The guy is instantly the most dangerous outside shooter on the team (that will play a lot of minutes anyway) and scored 13 points in 21 minutes. By my count, he really only forced two shots out of nine which isn’t bad when you consider how badly he must be dying to prove he can be a big time scorer.
Ross also pulled down five boards though his overall defense needs work. I like that you can tell he’s really trying to be a solid defensive player but I don’t like how robotic he looked at that end of the floor. He didn’t talk at all – except to himself – almost guiding himself through trying to play helpside defense while keeping his man in his sights. He looked to really be internalizing his defensive effort and the lack of talk kept him from calling out oncoming screens leading to Scott getting blasted once and a few open shots off those unannounced screens. He’s a work in progress but he’s going to play because he can score no matter what Thad says about how a player has to be a great defender to see the floor.
Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson really impressed me at times especially at the defensive end. Scott had an amazing block running back in transition and Thompson had three swats to nobody’s surprise. What I really liked from both these dudes was their on-ball defense. They really hawked the ball and pushed the opposing player (scott especially) far out on the wing. Scott had theWalsh PG initiating the offense 35 feet out on a couple trips. Good stuff.
Scott also showed that solid ability we saw at the end of last year to get in the paint off the bounce and kick out to a spot up shooter. Meanwhile, Thompson is a guy that will continue to look to receive passes off the slash as he did from Craft for a dunk early. He has a poor man’s Lighty vibe going on and his stat line read 11 points, four boards, four dimes and three blocks in 23 minutes. Very strong night for Sam.
Smith only played 19 minutes and didn’t show much with six points and three boards against three turnovers but I’m not worried about him. He’ll be another streaky outside shooter but when it counts, I know he’ll get his ass on the glass and defend his man with a mentality that rest is for the offensive end of the floor.
Down low, Amir got the start but didn’t really show much in 14 minutes other than the known ability to block shots. He had five blocks and the most impressive thing about them was that I think all of them were on his man as opposed to the more conventional block that comes from rotating over to help a teammate. While those on-man blocks were sweet, he got abused in the post more than few times and never seemed to catch on that their man big was left-handed. It was kind of amazing actually that he made no adjustment whatsoever to this fact.
It’s early though so no need to give up on Amir at this point. He’s got a ton of potential as a defensive player and his new frame featuring 30 extra lbs of muscle looks B1G ready. He’s just gotta play smarter and work on his hands. They were stone-ish last night and he’s better than that. He lost a few passes and rebounds just because he didn’t grab the ball and chin it.
Ravenel looked very good and will likely emerge as an unsung hero on this team. He was 5/5 from the floor for 11 points and his moves are fairly fluid. He’s never going to be a superstar but I do think he’s the type of guy – with a lot of experience – that will more easily find and embrace his role than some of the younger guys on a team full of role players save DT and Craft.
Della Valle, as I briefly mentioned up top, has proven at the high school level that he can shoot but even on a team desperate for a consistent three point shooter, he appears to be the odd man out in the rotation at this point. It was just one game but it’s tough to come to this level and immediately grasp the speed of things. He threw two awful passes for turnovers, telegraphing both, and you could tell he knew just as he was letting them go that the ball was about to be going the other way. Physically, he needs to get stronger. If he doesn’t, he’ll only be of use out on the perimeter because opposing wings in conference would likely bully him to the paint either off the bounce of via post-up.
Trey McDonald is a guy that’s gained some love in the off season for his improvement but in last night’s small sample size, he looked like a guy that will only play if foul trouble dictates it.
Overall, though Thad was down on the effort, I saw a lot to be excited about. All of the young guys are going to continue to get better and that’s the name of the game. Nobody cares how good you are in November. If those guys continue to grow while Smith, Thomas and Craft all take a reasonable step forward, there’s no reason this team can’t make some noise come March.