Raise your hand if you saw this coming.
If your hand is raised, you're either a member of the Ohio State basketball program or a liar.
After being picked to finish outside the top 10 of the Big Ten, the Buckeyes are off to a 14-4 overall start and a perfect 5-0 start in conference play, including a pair of road victories and a home win over the previous No. 1 ranked team in the country.
Put your hands down. No one saw this coming.
But perhaps even more impressive than the Buckeyes being unbeaten in their conference has been the way Chris Holtmann's first Ohio State team has won those games.
Ohio State has won all but one conference game by double digits, with a 71-62 comeback win over Michigan the lone exception. The Buckeyes thoroughly dominated Wisconsin and Maryland, kept Iowa from making things interesting in Iowa City and ran through a Spartan team that at one point looked like a national title favorite.
So how exactly have the Buckeyes been thoroughly dominating their conference opponents? Senior Jae'Sean Tate said after rolling over Maryland, 91-69 on Thursday night, that his team has been playing with an edge all season thanks in part to the preseason rankings that picked the Buckeyes to finish near the bottom of the league.
"I think it has just been all about our approach. Our approach every day in practice, our approach pregame," Tate said. "Like we always say, we were picked as one of the last teams in the Big Ten. Even though we are 5-0, we are still going to play with that chip on our shoulder. I think that has really been a key to our success, just being on a team where guys are unselfish. We enjoy playing with each other and just love each other on and off the court."
If you hadn't watched Ohio State this season and just looked at a Big Ten stat sheet, you probably wouldn't peg the Buckeyes as a team tied atop the standings for the conference lead. Holtmann's squad ranks in the top three of just one major statistical category in the Big Ten (field goal percentage, third, 49.6 percent). When you watch the Scarlet and Gray play, however, there is a clear change in the team's energy that had been lacking in years past.
One area that the Buckeyes have improved on greatly since conference play started is their three-point shooting. In five conference games, Ohio State is shooting a blistering 47.3 percent from long range as a team, including a performance against the Terrapins that saw OSU hit 17-of-29 three-pointers, a program record for shots made behind the arc against a Big Ten opponent.
While he is pleased with the effort his team has shown recently, Holtmann said Thursday that is isn't realistic to expect his team will continue to hit shots from the outside at such a high percentage all season. Rather, he added his team will have to keep up its intensity on defense in order to maintain its momentum moving forward.
"It's an expectation that our effort and our attention to detail and our focus is what it needs to be. I don't think that we can ever expect to make 17 threes in a game. I think that is unrealistic," Holtmann said. "I don't think you can necessarily expect these kind of offensive numbers. What we can and need to expect as a coaching staff is that we will have 40 minutes of better attention to detail and defensive focus about us."