Ohio State Basketball: Contenders

With 11 minutes to go in the first half, the Ohio State Buckeyes went down 20-10 against Minnesota during the Big Ten’s Super Saturday.  The best player in the Big Ten, Keita Bates-Diop, was struggling from the floor, and the OSU defense couldn’t handle Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy and his game down low.  However, through their slump, the Buckeyes stayed committed to playing physical basketball and taking advantage of every opportunity.

The very first points on the board came off a steal that led to an easy transition dunk for Bates-Diop.  This was a preface of things to come, because, even though at times they weren’t getting the ball in the hoop, the Buckeyes continued to force turnovers.  In fact, they ended the game with 10 steals and 22 points off of 15 Minnesota turnovers.

Ohio State’s second made shot was a transition layup that was set up by a Sweet n’ Low bounce pass from CJ Jackson to Kam Williams.  This was another fast scoring opportunity made possible, not because of outstanding offensive playmaking, but because they were playing smart, tough Ohio State basketball. The Buckeyes finished with 11 assists.

The third score for the OSU came after CJ Jackson missed a 3 pointer from the corner.  He followed his miss and came up with an offensive rebound that put him right next to the hoop with a wide open shot.  Jackson’s floater put his team ahead 6-2.  OSU finished with 12 offensive rebounds.

Unfortunately, after a few layups underneath to make the score 11-10, the shots stopped falling.

The Golden Gophers went on a 9-0 run and took their ten point lead.  This left the fans that had made the long trek up to NYC wonder whether it looked like, perhaps, the Buckeyes didn’t have the magic.  Maybe they were having an off day, or this talented Minnesota team was just finally finding their stride again.  Maybe Ohio State had been overachieving for the last few weeks, and they were finally falling back to earth.  Either way, OSU was struggling and their opponent was surging.

Of course, we all watched the game so we know how it ends.  The Buckeyes saved the first half doing the same things that they had been doing through the first 9 minutes of the game.  They kept forcing turnovers, they kept making good passes, they kept getting rebounds, on both the offensive and defensive ends, and eventually, someone’s shot went in.

All of the sudden the floodgates opened to reveal the January Buckeyes once more.

Steal, pass, score;
block, pass, pass, score;
inside, outside, score;
steal, pass, miss, offensive rebound, put back, score;

Ohio State took the lead and then took a commanding lead and then they started dominating.  A 10 point deficit turned into a 12 point lead and the score was 34-22.  A 24 to 2 scoring run in which the Buckeyes dominated every facet of the game– shooting, defending, rebounding, passing– and they did it with Keita on the bench for 5 minutes.

This team believes it’s one of the best teams in the country.  After taking care of business at Rutgers, holding off a late surge from Northwestern, and obliterating Minnesota in Madison Square Garden, they come home with an 8-0 conference record and a top-15 ranking.  Their four-game homestretch, starting tonight with Nebraska, comes at the perfect time, giving the Buckeyes an opportunity to flex their muscles against the middle of the Big Ten in preparation for what could be a Top-10 matchup at Purdue on February 7th.

Chris Holtmann has put this team in a position to do something that they haven’t done since the 2012-2013 season: hold a top 10 ranking in January.  If they win their next four games, they will own a 21-4 record, including a 12-0 start to conference play.  Four games is a tall task, especially with the physicality of the Big Ten, but Ohio State has shown that it has the coaches, players and drive to do it. The next step is Nebraska, and then Penn State and Indiana and Illinois.

Keita Bates-Diop has come back down to earth after his four-game “prove-it” tour, but Ohio State hasn’t.  The Buckeyes are still dominating teams, still proving that they are not just “the surprise of the season” as every major sports publication is dubbing them.  They want everyone to know that they aren’t overachieving.  They are contenders.

Their next step is Nebraska, but this Buckeye team has its sights set higher.

Ohio State Basketball: Becoming the Hunted

On Sunday, January 7th 2018, the Ohio State Men’s Basketball team defeated the top ranked Michigan State Spartans. When asked about the upset, OSU’s coach, Chris Holtmann, responded, “It is hard to win on the road, especially when you have that kind of number by your name. You get a different look from teams.” That ‘number’ he was referring to was the tiny 1 that could be seen next to Michigan State’s name throughout the game’s broadcast, and the point he was making was that, when people know you’re the best, your opponents play you harder.

Coach Holtmann knew this fact from experience, himself watching his own Buckeyes give the AP’s number 1 ranked team in America all it could handle, and then some.

From the beginning of the season, when they were selected by some to finish as low as 14th in the Big Ten (out of 14), this undervalued and overlooked team had been playing with a chip on their shoulders.

In fact, when asked whether OSU’s quick conference start surprised him, Senior Jae’Sean Tate told the press that he and the other players “always remind ourselves that we were last picked in the Big Ten… and I think that has really been a key to our success.” This slight drove them to become a team that played with ferocity—that played their tough and scrappy game no matter the opponent.

They were hunters.

As far as any of their opponents knew, this was a team of misfits—a roster filled to the brim with walk-ons, transfers, busts and guys who just couldn’t stay healthy; but from the beginning of the season, they started proving people wrong.

In an early season matchup against a tournament-level Butler team, they showed flashes of dominance that belied their humble exterior, but a last second comeback by the Bulldogs kept OSU in the shadows. Another opportunity for some notoriety came in the ACC-B1G Challenge, but, once again, a late-game collapse against the now-ranked Clemson Tigers stole the spotlight away. They had some losses, but they were hunters still.

Luckily, after missing two other opportunities at signature wins against Gonzaga and UNC, their prey had finally arrived. It came in the form of the aforementioned Spartans, a team on a 14-game win streak, standing atop the College Basketball world. Ohio State went into that Sunday night showdown the hunters, but they came out the hunted.

A home game against Maryland in which they were down by 9 at the 11 minute mark of the 1st half proved that they were no longer a team that would be overlooked.  At the end of the game, Maryland’s Coach Turgeon said, “We knew we weren’t getting the same shot that Michigan State got at the start of the game,” and so the Terrapins came out swinging. The Buckeyes didn’t have that same fire to start off, the way they had against the Spartans, but after a quick timeout by Coach Holtmann, Maryland got buried, going from up nine to eight down in less than 4 minutes, and that was pretty much the end of the game.

After surviving their first test as the hunted, the Buckeyes had to go on the road against Rutgers, a physical, defensive team that had just barely failed to do what Ohio State did in knocking off Michigan State.  This time, though, the Buckeyes would have no home crowd. They would be playing on regional television in a game that Rutgers would surely be up for after such a great performance in the previous week.  However, once again, the Buckeyes were up to the challenge, beating Rutgers 66-46. Holtmann said after the game that they “are going to have some people that will play with a different edge” and that they would “see if we are good enough to manage that.” Another test passed. Another hunt escaped.

Of course, for all of their impressive defensive statistics, Rutgers is currently 1-5 in conference and tied for 12th in the standings. Tonight, the Buckeyes face off against a much better team in their arena and on their court. Northwestern, a team that made the tournament last year and then had the nerve to return 4 starters, has been slumping for the better part of this season, but they do have the talent to compete with Ohio State. The game between these teams is going to be Big Ten basketball at its finest, and the Buckeyes are going to have to grind it out.

OSU has proven that they have the goods to play with the big boys. They have proven that they can come back at home and take care of the conference’s not-so-good teams on the road. Now they’ve got to take it one step further to prove they deserve to be at the top of the Big Ten. They have to beat a good team on the road when that team is preparing specifically for them. This is just the next test of many to come as they seek to close out the season strongly.

Tonight they have a chance to pass another milestone for this once-unheralded Buckeyes team and to add to their tournament resume, only this time, they’re the ones with the number by their name.

Ohio State Basketball: Post-Game Overreaction by Jesse M. Brake

It has been mere moments since Andre Wesson put the nail in the coffin against a solid Rutgers defense (not so much with the offense), and it’s occurred to me that there may be a good metaphor for this Buckeyes team.  Early in the broadcast, the commentators were talking about Jae’Sean Tate and how he is a do-everything type of player, a Swiss Army Knife, and, while that is a good description of what Jae’Sean does for Ohio State, it is an even better metaphor for the Basketball Buckeyes as a whole.

This team is a Swiss Army Knife.

Now, I obviously don’t expect you to believe me without any evidence, so to prove it to you, so let me give you some numbers.  (Prepare yourself for Too Much Information.)  The Buckeyes’ offense is the 28th rated team in KenPom Adjusted Efficiency and their defense is rated 30th in Adjusted Efficiency.  There are only 9 teams in the country— including Ohio State— that are rated in the Top 30 nationally in both categories.

According to teamrankings.com, the Buckeyes are 19th in Shooting%, 28th in Effective Field Goal % and 32nd in True Shooting % while remaining in the Top 75 in all defensive Shooting categories.  They are in the Top 30% of all teams in Block Percentage, Top 20% in Rebound Rate, Assists per Game and Assist/Turnover Ratio and they are among the best in the nation at not allowing opposing teams to get easy points in the paint.

What all of those statistics mean is that this is an adaptable team. Against Michigan State, we saw this Buckeyes team not allow Sparty to penetrate the lane or get anything inside, forcing a team that was struggling shooting from the field to take a lot of outside shots.  OSU also took advantage of Michigan State’s tendency to turn the ball over, forcing 12 TOs and making the most of transition scoring opportunities.  They did all this while still playing their basic, high-effort man-to-man defense.

The next game, against a Maryland team missing important playmakers, they held firm on defense through a slow start shooting until they were able to get better, more open looks.  From there, they scored and scored while the undermanned Terrapins had no offensive response.  The Buckeyes tied the school record for most 3 Pointers made in a game with 17, and 8 different players made at least one shot from beyond the arc.

Tonight, against this stingy and plodding Rutgers defense, the Buckeyes slowed everything up and locked down the inside, forcing one of the worst shooting teams in the country to dribble around for 25 seconds and then throw up deep 2s and 3s all night.

With three unique victories against three completely different teams, Ohio State is showing itself to be a matchup nightmare.  This team is showing itself to be a Swiss Army Knife that can find your weakness and take advantage of it, or that can beat you at your own game.  They have CJ Jackson, who is just like the tiny knife on the backside of the tool, swooping in for layups, assists, and rebounds.  They also have Keita Bates-Diop, the big main knife that will cut you to the bone if you’re not paying attention and can be used for many things.  Not to mention they’ve got Micah Potter; he’s that curvy thing that looks like a bottle opener, but it can’t be because there’s already another bottle opener, so you just use it to pry things.

There’s a little something for every situation with these Basketball Buckeyes, and the more I see of this team, the more credit I give to the Coach.  Holtmann has molded this team into something competitive and fun to watch, which brings me to my overreaction:  Ohio State is not just a tournament team, they are a good tournament team, and they are a dark horse to make it to the Final Four THIS SEASON.  If they can get past Purdue, they might even be able to win the Big Ten too.

The Basketball Buckeyes Are Back by Jesse M. Brake

With three and a half minutes left in the first half and the Ohio State Men’s Basketball Team up on Maryland 34 – 24, Senior Forward Jae’Sean Tate drove into the paint from the right wing.  The defense collapsed, leaving former walk-on and former Wolverine wide open for three in the corner.

With an opportunity to shoot, Andy Dakich, the graduate transfer from Michigan, took it and drained his third triple of the night.  The trio of 3 pointers gave him the same amount against Maryland as he made during his entire 3 year career at Michigan, while also putting Buckeyes up 13 in a game they would go on to dominate in the second half.

The Ohio State possession I just described is indicative of what this team has grown to become over the last few weeks.  There is no argument over who the best player is, nor is there an argument about the amount of talent on the roster.

Forward Keita Bates-Diop, the Big Ten scoring leader, is now in many minds the favorite to win Big Ten Player of the Year honors, but after Keita, there doesn’t seem to be any clear NBA-level talents on the roster.  This general lack of elite talent means Ohio State should have issues matching up against top teams, and in the early part of the season we saw exactly that play out.

The Buckeyes could not keep up with teams like Gonzaga and UNC.  They struggled to string together stops and to make the tough shots.  The other issue that gave many fans doubts about this team was a serious lack of leadership over the past two years.  Throw in a controversial head coach firing and the late hour at which it occurred and you get a team that many were worried could struggle with identity, decision-making, mental toughness or any number of off-court issues.

The early losses to Butler and Clemson, both coming after holding double-digit leads late in the second half, seemed to confirm our suspicions that this would be a rebuilding year.  Everything seemed to be pointing toward another unexciting season for Ohio State basketball, except one thing… They beat everybody else.

There were no losses to Florida Atlantic.  There were no losses to UT Arlington or Louisiana Tech.  Even more impressive were their early season Big Ten wins, handing Wisconsin its worst loss ever in the Kohl Center, 83-58, and then beating a solid Michigan team at home.

After a loss to #5 UNC in the CBS Sports Classic, the Buckeyes beat Miami (OH) and Iowa, and entered a matchup against the #1 team in the country with an undefeated conference record.  The team had done what it needed to do.  They weren’t surprising anyone too much yet, but, if you were really paying attention, you saw a team that was gelling.

They had their ups and downs, but under Head Coach Chris Holtmann, they were improving every single game. And so, the Basketball Buckeyes beat #1 Michigan State.  The reason they won is the same reason why this team is so much fun to watch.

They did it with the little things and one big thing.  This team is a team that plays hard on every play.  They fight for loose balls. They clog up passing lanes. They make the extra pass on offense and they’re all learning to take the open shot.

Of course it helps that they have a Keita they can feed when no one else’s shots are falling, but against Michigan State and again against Maryland the reason Bates-Diop was so extremely effective was because players like Kam Williams, CJ Jackson and even Andrew Dakich were stepping up to make plays when the defense sold out to stop their star player.

Over the last couple years, the complaints piling up against this team were many, but most of them boiled down to a team that didn’t care. This team plays like they care, and when good teams play like they care, they win games.  It also helps that Andy Dakich is draining threes.

Trouble for Trimble’s Terps?

This Saturday the Basketbucks have a shot at upsetting another top five team this season as they travel to College Park, Md. to face the Terrapins.

Gametime: Sat, Jan 16 / 12 pm

Where: Xfinity Center, College Park, Md.

TV: ESPN2, ESPN3

 

Both teams share a few common opponents – Northwestern, Mt. Saint Mary’s, and Connecticut. The only difference is the Terps’ win over Uconn, whom the Buckeyes failed to beat.

But ever since defeating Kentucky, this Buckeye team has had a lot more confidence. This has been an odd Buckeyes squad to figure out, from dropping early games against easily beatable opponents to playing their best two games against their toughest competition, UVA and Kentucky. But nevertheless, the Buckeyes will be going into this weekend’s game with a 13-6 record.

On the other side of the tip, the Terrapins boast a 15-2 record and a national ranking of third, right behind Kansas and Oklahoma. However, those rankings will be subject to change after Kansas’ loss to West Virginia as well as Maryland’s most recent loss to the *ichigan Wolverines. Maryland’s toughest win is probably against Wisconsin, having lost their two toughest games to UNC and *ichigan, so they have yet to really defeat a decent opponent.

 

Projected Starters

Head Coach Mark Turgeon’s best weapon is none other than point guard Melo Trimble. Trimble leads the Terps in scoring with 14.8 ppg. He also is an excellent free throw shooter with a percentage of 87 percent so far this season, and he is also a force to reckon with on the defensive end with 22 steals. Rounding out the other projected starters for Turgeon’s squad, former Duke shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon will be tough to stop. Jake Layman, Robert Carter, and Damonte Dodd should be the big men starting, all of whom are averaging over ten points per game.

For the Buckeyes, it should stay the same with Jaquan Lyle at the point, followed by Jae’sean Tate, Marc Loving, Keita Bates-Diop, and Trevor Thompson at the center position.

 

Keys to the Game & Matchups

The keys to this game for both teams will be who can control the glass. Despite being the shortest in the starting lineup at 6’4, Tate leads the Buckeyes in rebounds with 108 on the season. Tate’s battle with Carter (6.9 rebounds per game) should be a fun one to watch within the game.

Another interesting matchup to keep an eye on is to see whether or not Lyle will be quick enough to guard Trimble. Lyle has a height advantage on him, but we’ll see if he can limit Trimble’s production. That is who the Bucks have to stop first, but even so, Maryland is fifth in the nation in field goal percentage, so they have scoring production all over the court.

 

OSU X-Factor – Daniel Giddens. If Giddens can provide good minutes off the bench without getting into foul trouble, then he should prove to be a good defensive weapon. Ohio State ranks tenth in the nation in blocks per game with 6.06, but 35 of those this season have come from Giddens. He will have to play solid defense to give the Buckeyes a decent shot at shutting down Maryland’s offense.

Maryland X-Factor – Diamond Stone. Stone is Maryland’s second leading scorer overall this season with 13.1 ppg, and he may not even start, in favor of Dodd, who has started the last few games for the Terps. The 6’11” freshman can also crash the boards with his size.

 

Prediction: OSU 65 / Maryland 72

Despite limiting Trimble, the Terrapins just have too many weapons on offense for the entire team to have an off night. Balance and a well executed gameplan will unfortunately prove to beat out the Buckeyes. But should Maryland have a tough night shooting from the field, Ohio State could have their second top five upset of the season.

Men of the Scarlet and Gray Podcast Buckeye Men’s Basketball Preview

The Buckeye men’s basketball season is officially underway. Andrew Chirico and I do a preview of the players on the team. Lot has changed with some familiar faces still. Thad Matta brought in a very highly ranked recruiting class into Columbus for this season.

Andrew and I also do a review of the Mount St. Mary game, the first to open up the season and the win allowed Thad Matta to go 12-0 on season openers while being the head coach for Ohio State. The win also puts him at 300 victories.

This is our first of hopefully many covering the men’s basketball team so we are hoping its also going to be a fun ride.

Its that time of the year again!

Its that time of the year again! Basketball season is officially here(technically the season doesn’t start til Sunday.) Nonetheless its here and its a cause for celebration. But before I get ahead of myself, I know we’re coming down the home stretch of the football season and the Buckeyes are right in the meat of the schedule, but please bear with me because its B-Ball season baby!

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The Buckeyes, coming off of an overall decent yet lack luster season, are looking to make some huge improvements from last year’s team. OSU finished with a 24-11 record in Thad Matta’s 11th year. Thats not a bad record, but when you play in the Big Ten, which is arguably the best conference in basketball, that kind of record only lands you in 6th place. But bouncing back may be easier said than done, sense the Bucks lost their top two scorers per game, NBA lottery pick D’Angelo Russell and Slam Thompson. Russell averaged 19 points per game, while Thompson’s average was just over 10. However, Ohio State seems to be loaded with talent on this year’s team. Sophomore, Jae’sean Tate has a motor that doesn’t quit and is the leading returning scorer from last year’s squad. His role, as the new leader of this team, will bring an energy and a fire to the court, that we haven’t seen in the past few years. Not to mention, Keita Bates-Diop, the Sophomore Small Forward, will get much more playing time this season. Bates-Diop showed signs of tremendous talent last year, but he will have a greater opportunity to prove how he earned that four star rating, coming out of high school. Thad Matta and company also brought in the number one recruiting class in the Big Ten, which consists of five, four star commits:

C Daniel Giddens
SG Austin Grandstaff
SG Jaquan Lyle
SF Mickey Mitchell
PG AJ Harris

Ohio State is in a prime position, with the amount of talent they have on the roster, to make a run for a championship this season. Whether their lack of experience will hinder the Buckeyes has yet to be seen.

Around the country, there are always Freshman that jump right into the game and make a huge impact; Dick Vitale calls them “diaper dandies.” For example, Ben Simmons at LSU is a guy that everyone seems to be fascinated with. Some more names you should be on the look out for are from your typical blue chip programs such as UK and Duke.

Kentucky will play the #10 overall player coming out of high school last season, SF Jamal Murray; as well as the #2 overall and #12 overall players, PF Skal Labissiere and guard Isaiah Briscoe.

Coach K has brought in PG Derryck Thornton and SG Luke Kennard for his backcourt. They are the number #14 overall and #21 overall players respectively. Duke also signed the #3 overall player, SF Brandon Ingram.

Its looks like it will be anothet great year of college basketball and I can’t wait. If you want to check the Men’s Basketball team, Ohio State kicks off its season on Sunday against Mt. St Mary’s; but the kickoff marathon starts on Tuesday.
3 Kentucky and 6 Duke will play at 7:30.
Georgetown and 1 Maryland will start at 9PM, and 5 Kansas and 19 Michigan will tip-off at 10 o’clock. Enjoy the season basketball fans!

2017 Four-Star Center Kaleb Wesson Commits to Ohio State

(Dispatch Photo by Barbara J. Perenic)

(Dispatch Photo by Barbara J. Perenic)

Thad Matta and Company today found out they will have a big man coming to play in Columbus.

Ohio State received their first commit for the 2017 Class. Kaleb Wesson is a 6-foot-9, 270-pound center from Westerville, Oh. During Wesson’s sophomore year while playing for Westerville South he averaging 11.7-points, 8.6-rebounds and 3-blocks per game. Kaleb is ranked as the No. 53 overall player in the Class of 2017 by Scout.com, the No. 12 center and the No. 1 center in Ohio meanwhile Rivals.com ranks him as the No. 77 overall player.

According to ESPN Kaleb has great hands and feet already the only knock is conditioning. They project him to be one of the top centers for 2017 class. Wesson will join the current bigs the Buckeyes already have in junior transfer Trevor Thompson, redshirt freshman David Bell, incoming commits Daniel Giddens along with future players Derek Funderburk and Micah Potter.

For any Buckeye fans thinking the name Wesson sounds familiar it should. His dad was a center for OSU during the eighties. Alas for anyone hoping for him to also play football don’t believe that is going to happen even though he is a three star lineman, word is he will be shifting his focus to basketball.

Thad Gets a Second Big for 2016

Lets face it Thad Matta’s hasn’t had much luck getting Big men to Ohio State. Yes there was the one and done Greg Oden, Jared Sullinger as far as really good ones that have donned the Scarlet and Gray so far. There also has been (at least to many fans like myself) disappointments like Amir Williams, undersized centers like Trey McDonald and Anthony Lee. I am sure I am missing some names right now but you get my point.

Next season redshirt freshman David Bell will be someone to keep and eye on along with Virginia Tech transfer who had to sit out this last season, Trevor Thompson.

Derek Funderburk a 2016 commit for the Buckeyes earlier this year is going to be joined now by Micah Porter. The 2016 class is going to be small might even be done with recruiting.

Porter who is from Mentor is listed at 6’10 220-240 and plays center/forward. The 3-star player is listed as the #13 prospect in the state of Ohio.

Thad has talent coming in this next season for the outside, has size currently on team with more coming. This actually could be very scary whats about to go down in Columbus the next few years.

The Best Damn Fan March Madness Giveaway

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It’s that time of year again, time to rush out and join as many brackets as you can and see how much money you possibly could win.

This is the time of year where bragging rights amongst co-workers, friends, and family are on the line.

This year, we are doing something special for our readers and Buckeye Nation. You have to admit that having the first College Playoff National Championship is exciting, heck you guys proved it by the making this past year one of our best ever.

And now we want to give back.

As a thank you to our readers, Men of the Scarlet and Gray and The Buckeye Battle Cry have teamed up for a unique March Madness Tournament Giveaway.

The Best Damn Fan March Madness Giveaway!

We will be giving away to the winner of our Tournament Pick’em a pair of Club Seats to The Spring Game at Ohio Stadium on April 18th, which includes the lacrosse matchup against Maryland before The National Champs take the field. Plus, bust the bracket and become our Pick’em champion, we’ll also be sending you “100 Things Buckeye Fans Should Do Before They Die,” by Andrew Buchanan.

We’re also throwing in an amazing two sided Ohio State flag made by the great folks at CVS flags.

Our contest winner will be able to Fly their Ohio State pride while letting the whole neighborhood know which team you support. As you can see, this Flag is top quality. It’s made of the most durable polyester which is built to withstand even the toughest competition.

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The price to enter for something like this you ask? Free, it is our way to give back to The Best Damn Fans In The Land.

All you have to do is add yourself to our Yahoo! Pool and make the proper picks that make you the Best Damn March Madness Pick’em Fan in the land.

It’s easy as 1,2,3!

Head to our Yahoo! Pool by clicking here.
Click Join Group
Sign in to your Yahoo! account

It’s the Best Damn Fan March Madness Giveaway, brought to you by Men of the Scarlet and Gray and The Buckeye Battle Cry

Good Luck, go Buckeyes and we can’t wait to meet the lucky winner at The Spring Game!