3:45 Sunday. Value City Arena, Columbus. CBS.
The Buckeyes enter Sunday’s game with a 3-3 record in Big Ten play. Two of those wins, though, were home games against Iowa and Indiana. The third was on the road against Michigan. Ohio State is coming off an 18-point road loss to Illinois on Tuesday, in which Eleven Warriors says they “gave up.”
Ohio State continues to struggle on offense. They’ve failed to post a point per possession in their last six games against top 50 competition (based on Kenpom).
Rebounding is a major weakness on both ends of the court. Ohio State ranks 249th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 157th in defensive rebounding percentage.
Defensively, the team continues to excel at forcing tough shots inside the three-point arc (Opp 2Pt%=42.8%), partly by blocking a lot of shots (Block% of 18.4% is second best in the country). And they don’t foul a lot playing Thad Matta’s zone defense (2-3 or 3-2?).
The numbers would seem to favor MSU. But it’s important to keep in mind that Ohio State (1) will be very hungry for a home win to stay in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth and (2) has the horses to go toe-to-toe with MSU at four out of the five positions on the court:
- A shooting guard who was hit 40.6% of his 3-point attempts this year (Jon Diebler).
- A versatile swing man averaging 15.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game (Evan Turner).
- A power forward who blocks 2.6 shots per game (Dallas Lauderdale).
- A talented freshman center who’s starting to round into shape, having scored 12 points or more in his last five games on 71.7% FG shooting (B.J. Mullens).
The weak point in the lineup is point guard, where two juco transfers (Jeremie Simmons and P.J. Hill) are splitting minutes.
A wild card for the Buckeyes is freshman guard William Buford, who has emerged as a consistent scoring option. Burford has scored 13 points or more in his last five games, making 13 of 31 three-point attempts (41.9%) over that span.
The last time these two teams met, MSU shot well from beyond the arc, pulled down some offensive rebounds, got to the free throw line, and shut down Turner and Diebler. That sounds like a pretty good formula for Sunday. Of course, things generally don’t play out exactly the same way twice.
With the development of Mullens and Buford, MSU will have to play even better defensively. If Turner and Diebler were to emerge from their recent shooting slumps, Ohio State could finally break through the point-per-possession mark against a quality foe.
On offense, the onus may once again be on Kalin Lucas (20 points on 8 FG attempts in the first meeting) to make plays against the less talented Buckeye point guards. Hopefully, the extra day before this game will give Raymar Morgan time to get back to near 100% after his bout with the flu. And, if ever Chris Allen were going to find his shooting stroke, this would be the game, against the OSU zone.
Kenpom predicts a 67-66 Spartan win in a 65-possession game. This will be yet another dogfight. A win would would make up for Wednesday’s loss and regain our momentum heading into the middle stanza of conference play.
P.S. I’ll go ahead and put up another open thread Sunday afternoon in case people want to chat during the game. (And don’t worry about jinxing the team by doing an in-game chat again. I already burned the clothes I wore Wednesday night.)