7:00 Tuesday night. The Breslin Center. ESPN.
The Buckeyes come in at 12-4, 3-1 in the conference. They started the conference season by beating Illinois on the road, took care of Northwestern and Iowa at home, and then lost 75-68 at Purdue. Their two quality nonconference wins were against Syracuse and Florida.
Ohio State barely registers in the polls, receiving just 3 honorable mention points in the AP poll. But Sagarin has them at #24 and Kenpom has them at #27. This is a good team.
The Ohio State Defense
On defense, the Buckeyes have employed the 2-3 zone with great frequency. And their defensive tempo-free stat profile is what you’d expect:
- They don’t create a lot of turnovers (opponents TO%=20.2%). The 2-3 zone is a more passive zone than the 3-2 or 1-3-1.
- They force tough shots. Opponents are shooting just 32.2% on 2-pointers and 28.6% on 3-pointers. Despite the low shooting percentage on threes, their opponents have been forced to take 43.6% of their FG attempts from beyond the arc.
- They don’t foul a lot. Their opponents’ free throw rate of 19.8% is second lowest in the nation.
- They give up a decent number of offensive rebounds. Opponents OR%=34.0%
Add it all up and this is a very good defensive team, ranking #9 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. MSU absolutely can’t turn the ball over. Scoring against the zone will be tough enough, particularly given MSU’s lack of three-point proficiency beyond Neitzel. They have to maximize the number of scoring opportunities by holding on to the ball. And getting their mojo back on the offensive glass would be helpful, following two straight games with an OR% under 35%.
The Ohio State Offense
The Buckeyes aren’t quite as proficient offensively, ranking 78th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, but they do have some weapons. Freshman 7’0″ center Kousta Koufos (a dual Greek-American citizen) averages 14.4 points per game. Senior forward Othello Hunter is shooting 58.6% on 2-point attempts. Sophomore guard David Lighty is shooting a decent 37.2% on 3-pointers.
But the man who makes this team go is senior point guard Jamar Butler. He’s averaging 14.8 points per game on the strength of a 45.0% 3-point shooting. And he sports an assist/turnover ratio of 2.8. On a team that has freshmen and sophomores playing the bulk of the minutes, a senior point guard who can score and distribute the ball efficiently is a tremendous asset. Walton and Lucas will need to do what they can to get him out of rhythm and force other players to make key plays.
Ohio State isn’t that deep, with only 7 players playing more than 10 minutes per game, so this may be a game to push the pace on offense a bit. The Ohio State-Purdue game featured a very un-Big-Ten-like 80 possessions. It appears the Buckeyes may have worn down a bit, as Purdue outscored them 46-32 in the second half.
Kenpom predicts a 65-60 MSU win. This will not be an easy home victory.
The Hoops and Scoops blog on the Columbus Dispatch site says the Buckeyes need to take the ball aggressively to the rim on offense.
Update: Buckeye Banter has a preview up. They confirm that putting pressure on Butler was a key to Purdue’s win over Ohio State.
Updated #2: Eleven Warriors has a preview up. They agree Butler needs help and concur with TD’s comment that the Buckeyes tend to ignore their big men on offense.