2017 was an eventful year for the Ohio State basketball program. The end of the Thad Matta era, the start of the Chris Holtmann era, new recruits, transfers and the like. But as the turn of the new year comes and the dawn of a fresh start rises, the Buckeyes have one more game on the schedule Saturday afternoon against Miami (OH).
Miami enters the non-conference matchup with the Holtmann-led Buckeyes sporting a 7-5 record with their only notable win being over Fort Wayne, who defeated Indiana 92-72 on Dec. 18 at Assembly Hall.
|Miami (OH) 7-5||Value City Arena||12 p.m.||ESPNU|
Ohio State will come into the game looking to rebound off a reeling 86-72 loss to North Carolina.
The two teams will be playing their ninth total contest against one another as Saturday's game gets going with the Buckeyes commanding a 6-2 lead, the last being a 93-55 win in Columbus on Dec. 22, 2014.
Miami will feature a small lineup against the length of the Buckeyes, starting three guards all at 6-foot-5 or under. The Redhawks are lead one of those guards, 6-foot-3 freshman from Indianapolis Nike Sibande who is averaging 14 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
Another freshman that will carry heavy minutes for the Redhawks is 6-foot-5 freshman Jalen Adaway from Logansport, IN. In 11 starts, Adaway is the third leading scorer with 9.4 per contest and nearly six rebounds a game (5.8).
Up front Miami is lead by senior Logan McLane and freshman Dalonte Brown. McLane leads the team in rebounds per game with 6.7 and follows Sibande in scoring with an average of 10.3 per contest.
Brown is from northern Ohio, and is a product of Toledo Bowsher High School, contributing 7 and 5.4 rebounds per game standing at 6-foot-7.
Keys to the defensive effort for the Buckeyes will be limiting the three pointers by the Miami offense. Though they're only shooting 35 percent from behind the arc, Miami is averaging nine threes a game. Limiting the long range shots will be paramount in gaining distance for Ohio State.
Despite the loss against the Tar Heels a week ago Saturday, Ohio State has won five out of the last six and can finish the month of December with a 6-1 record with a win over Miami, their last non-conference game of the season.
"You have a chance to finish non-conference and feel really good about it," said Holtmann. "That's what in front of us [Saturday]."
They'll also be looking to improve upon their consistency and just generally bouncing back after the double-digit loss to the Tar Heels.
"As a coach we're looking for consistency of approach, regardless of who our opponent is," Holtmann said. "Anybody can beat anybody, it's been proven over and over in college basketball."
"We're focused foremost on growth and progress."
That growth and progress may benefit from the circumstances of the Buckeye roster. Holtmann said Friday morning that the break left all players healthy from previous injuries.
If that truly is the case, the front court presence of Keita Bates-Diop, Micah Potter and Kaleb Wesson will provide the biggest dividend against Miami. Regardless of how many minutes Ohio State gets out of Potter, the length of the Buckeyes over top of the Redhawks should provide the distance in this one.
The 6-foot-7 Bates-Diop leads the Buckeyes in scoring and at 18.7 points per game and rebounding in 8.7 boards per game. Look for the junior to continue his strong performance after scoring 43 points in the last two games.
Even if Potter doesn't see his minutes increase drastically, it's unlikely that the Buckeyes need them in this one. If Potter was only going to play eight minutes against North Carolina, it's unlikely they'd risk a re-aggravation of the injury in the final non-conference game of the year.
Wesson should largely benefit from the small three guard lineup that Miami will send out against the Buckeyes.
How it plays out
Things may play tight in the first half for Ohio State against a scrappy MAC team trying to make a case against a mightier in-state opponent off a week-long break for the Buckeyes.
But the discrepancy in skill level and the length of the Buckeyes up front will prove large in-part to be too much for Miami and Ohio State will lengthen this one down the stretch, ending 2017 with a win.
Prediction: Ohio State 92, Miami (OH) 76