After a rough game against UMass in the Shoe last weekend (why leave the WHAC in February??), The Ohio State Buckeyes take on Bucknell tomorrow. There is plenty to complain about last week's game, but the reality is the attackmen just didn't have it that day, and this week should be better.
Those players are too good to go 3-19 shooting on a regular basis. They'll definitely need to improve this week, as they're taking on an undefeated Bucknell team that is 3-0 and really rolling.
Bucknell, as I just said, has yet to drop a game, but really hasn't played anyone yet. Not really. The Bison have dropped Furman, Bryant, and Sacred Heart prior to meeting the Buckeyes tomorrow, while not exactly blowing those teams out. Their biggest win is a 16-9 blowout of Furman, who is just flat bad this year. The Bison then beat Bryant by 2 (11-9), and Sacred Heart by 3 (14-11).
It's great to be 3-0, but the out of conference schedule isn't exactly a Murderer's Row of teams. Much like last year's Buckeye team, the 3-0 isn't reflective of how good the team really is. There are a few statistical red flags that could spell good things for the Buckeyes.
The offense of Bucknell is based primarily on dodges from the top of the formation down the alley, which results in two things. One, it means the Bison shoot a whole lot. Two, the Bison really have a hard time scoring.
Alley dodges are ubiquitous, but among the least successful ways to score. Bucknell has a shooting percentage of .266 for the year, having taken 154 shots. With the schedule they've faced, this is certainly a poor sign. Obviously, having played three games, Bucknell averages 51 shots per game.
That's an incredibly high total. Bucknell is the definition of a volume-shooting team, and I just don't think it will be good for them against a Buckeye D that has been surprisingly stout this year despite many new faces at pole.
Individually, Bucknell is led on offense by senior (#99) Will Yorke, who Buckeye fans may remember for his 5-goal outburst last year in Columbus.
Yorke leads the Bison in goals this year with 9, and has the highest shooting percentage at .429. Yorke is a gigantic (6'4") lefty attackman who can shoot, and is a target for the rest of the team to feed. Sophomore Alston Tarry (#7) is the team leader in points for Bucknell with 13 (5 goals, 8 assists), and is the primary facilitator on that attack line.
The Buckeyes will have to keep track of these two players the most come Saturday, as the offense will run in large part between them after the alley dodge to initiate. It should present a challenge the Buckeyes are well-prepared for from the Detroit Mercy and BU games.
Defensively, Bucknell has been pretty stout. The Bison have held opponents to a measly .259 shooting percentage, and 42 fewer shots through three games. That's pretty impressive, although the caveat about opposition talent still applies. Without much in the way of real opposition, it's hard to tell how much the Buckeye O will be tested by this defensive group.
The Bison defense has allowed 62.5% of their opponent's shots to be on goal, which is remarkably high. They do have 35 more groundballs than their opponents this year, which is very impressive, especially as their faceoffs haven't been super dominant. The Bison have been subpar clearing the ball, only successful 85% of the time.
Good teams clear around the 90% mark, and OSU is usually the best team in the country at clearing. Bucknell does have a superb ride, however. Opponents are only clearing successfully 73% of the time. That's an elite ride. And will certainly be interesting to watch against the Buckeye clear.
At the faceoff X, Bucknell is doing pretty well. They're winning 59% of their draws, a great mark that gives them a lot of possessions. The Bison start sophomore (#55) Nick Crovatto, who is winning 60% of his faceoffs this year, and will be a huge obstacle at the dot for the Buckeyes.
Christian Feliziani has really struggled in the absence of Justin Inacio, and none of the other FOGOs have gotten any reps. It's a recipe for disaster as the meat of the schedule draws near.
In goal, Bucknell has been really good, as you might expect. Junior goalkeeper Ben Clark (#18) starts between the pipes for the Bison, and he has been solid, if not quite spectacular. Boasting a save percentage of 59%, Clark will certainly present yet another strong challenge for a Buckeye O that struggled to get the ball by a true freshman last week.
At 6'3", Clark fills the cage, and the Buckeyes will need to get his feet moving to really have a chance at a special day. Josh Kirson has been really good as well this season, so we should be in for a decent goalie matchup, assuming Kirson's form continues.
On special teams, the Buckeyes haven't really been able to get a lot going, currently sitting at 2-8 on Man Up. Bucknell, by contrast, has scored on 4 of their 6 Man Up opportunities, making them a force to be reckoned with. Will Yorke really will be a player to watch here, as lefty shooters are tremendous assets.
On the flip side, Bucknell has kept opponents to a 30% conversion rate while on Man Down, a fantastic figure that really will put the Buckeyes in a tough spot. With the options available, I really don't know why Man Up is so hard for the Buckeyes. This week would be a great time to turn things around.
After a rude awakening last week, optimism certainly isn't high heading to PA. The close 9-7 loss to UMass hopefully sparked a lot of soul-searching, of getting the little things right, and rededication to getting results. As such, I think it will be tighter than we would like, but the Buckeyes come out with the W.
Final prediction, OSU 11, Bucknell 8.
Game is on at 12 Noon tomorrow on the Patriot League Network. I will try to link the stream in the comments.