Opponent: These definitely are not the same two teams that met in early April to decide the National Title. One starter, Jamar Butler, returns and only 16 of 159 points scored will be participating in this rematch.
Florida is even younger than Ohio State with a roster of no seniors, 7 freshmen, 3 sophomores and 2 juniors. However, Billy Dee has decided to take a different approach in nonconference competition, playing only one significant team, in losing to Florida St.
The Gators come into Columbus averaging 82.6 points per game and only give up 58.8, holding the opposition to 40.4 percent from the field. With all the cupcakes Florida has played this year, it is not a surprise they are shooting almost 52 percent from the floor and over 40 percent from behind the arc.
Florida runs with 9 different players and should bring another trapping defense against Ohio State. It is going to be interesting to see how Florida responds to stiffer competition. Georgia Southern gave them a run for their money last week, squandering a 13 point lead before losing by 3.
Key Players: Nick Calathes (#33 6'6" Fr.) leads this team in scoring (15.8), minutes (31.8) and assists (3.0). Nick is Florida's gunner, shooting from anywhere and attempting 30 more shots than any other teammate, despite having the 2nd worst shooting percentage at 44 percent. He could have a big day if he can slice and shoot through Ohio State's zone.
Marreese Spieghts (#34 6'10" So.) is the only returning Gator who played any time last season against the Buckeyes. Marreese is a big dude and leads the team in rebounding (7.4), FG percentage (64.2) and blocks (19/season). He is going to push Koufos around all day and might have a big game.
The only other Gator in double digits is Chandler Parsons (#25 6'9" Fr.), who is giving Billy 10.6 off the bench. Parson seems to spend most of his time outside, taking almost half of his shots from there (42 of 87). The good news for Thad's boys is he only shoots 33 percent from long range and may chip in with only a few caroms and assists.
Walter Hodge (#15 6'0" Jr.), Jai Lucas (#5 5'11" Fr.) and Dan Werner (#21 6'7" So.) will round out the starting lineup for the Gators. Hodge is another returning reserve player from a year ago and come in scoring 9.8 per game and is second on the team in assists (33), minutes (29.6) and steals (20). Hodge will also take more than half of his shots from behind the arc.
Lucas is the son of former NBA star John Lucas and was one of the most heralded point guards coming out of high school last year. He comes in scoring 9.4 a game and is shooting 50 percent from the floor and 3land. Werner chips in with 7.7 per game and leads the team in boards at 7.5 a game.
Other key reserves will be Adam Allen (#14 6'8" Fr.), Alex Tyus (#23 6'8" Fr.) and Jonathan Mitchell (#0 6'7" So.), who come in scoring 15 points and grabbing over 6 rebounds a game.
Notes: This is Florida's first trip outside their state for a game this season... The Gators are beating their non-competitive opponents by 23.8 points a game... Billy Donovan is 272-104 in his 12th season as coach.
Buckeye Breakdown: Ohio State continued their hot shooting in a win over Cleveland St. on Tuesday. Thad's team has now won 3 straight after their brutal stretch of early games. I think this is one of those games where the early competition Ohio State faced is going to help pull out a victory, but of course the Buckeyes must continue their torrid pace.
Ohio State connected on 61 percent of their shots this week (65-106) and 60 percent from downtown (22-37). That extra practice time over the past two weeks has really helped this young team and some players are starting to get more comfortable within the system.
The Buckeyes have raised their season average to 69 points a game and are creeping up on 50 percent shooting, sitting at 46 percent. While Ohio State is not playing the man to man defense I love, this zone has been extremely effective in holding teams to low shooting percentages. Opponents are shooting only 37 percent from the floor and 28 percent from behind the arc, Texas A&M is the only team to make more than half their shots against Ohio State.
One area of continued struggle is rebounding. Ohio State is barely outrebounding their opposition by .5 a game, which has lead to the other teams taking 41 more shots than the Buckeyes this year. Florida's height is scary and their ability to gain the rebounding edge could be detrimental to Ohio State's home effort.
Ohio State placed five players in double figures against Cleveland State for only the second time this year, giving a rare glimpse at the balanced scoring potential this team has. All five of those players have managed to average double figures over the last two. As Chris mentioned, David Lighty and John Diebler finally made the team bus and helped pace the Buckeyes to victory. However, I am a bit hesitant to get really excited about their play, until I see the follow up performance against a stiffer test.
D-Light's effort pushed him up to the 10 point a game mark again and he has made 5 of his last 6 threes. He also dished out a career high 8 assists in his home town Tuesday and now ranks second on the team at 3 per game, to go along with 4.4 boards per contest.
Threebler raised his season shooting averages after his 6 of 7 effort against the Vikings. He is now connecting on an astounding 25.5 percent from 3country and 28 percent overall. The young gun from Sandusky hopefully has regained his shooting touch, spending extra time in the gym these past two weeks, relearning how to jump straight up and down on his shot.
The fade-a-way bug must have traveled south with the two freshmen from northern Ohio, as Kosta Koufos continues to lack strength on the interior. "Fade-a-way-K.K." needs to start wearing Grateful Dead tied-eyed tshirts and continually hum the great song "Not Fade Away" in order to get the proper mentality. Don't get me wrong, Koufos is going to be great, but he can not continue to jump back every time he shoots or goes for a board. He has attempted only 2.8 free throws a game, but still leads the team in scoring (15.8) and shooting (53.7 percent).
Othello Hunter has played well lately, combing for 27 points and 11 boards over the last two. I have said all year this guy is key to Ohio State's success, as the Wiggler is not going to contribute anything inside this year. Hunter has to continue his inside presence until Dallas Lauderdale gets more comfortable.
Everyone knows it is going to take an all out team effort to pull off this victory. Florida has tremendous size and if Ohio State gives up offensive rebounds at the pace they have all year, then it is going to lead to another Gator victory and I am tired of seeing those. Evan Turner needs to keep turnovers down and Jamar Butler has to control this team. It is going to be a great college hoops game and hopefully the atmosphere at the Schott will follow suit.
Notes: Ohio State leads the all-time series 5-4... The game is on CBS, with hometown hero Clark Kellog doing color commentary... The game is sold out and Ohio State's next game is Dec. 29th.