Know Thy Enemy: OSU 'exceeding expectations' so far this season
The Buckeyes (12-4 overall) are undefeated through three games in the Big Ten and are tied with the Spartans and No. 13 Purdue for the top spot in the conference, and the winner on Sunday could take lone possession of first place.
First-year coach Chris Holtmann and the Buckeyes defeated Iowa (9-8, 0-4 Big Ten) on Thursday, 92-81. But to get a better understanding of Ohio State, The State News talked with Edward Sutelan, men’s basketball reporter for The Lantern, Ohio State’s student publication.
Here’s what he had to say:
Q: What can you tell me about some of (Ohio State’s) signature wins and losses? I see a win against Wisconsin that sticks out to me, the loss to Gonzaga. What did you see in that loss against North Carolina?
A: In terms of the signature wins, the Wisconsin and Michigan games are the two that stand out to me. Wisconsin, I know they’re having a bit of a down year, but it’s never easy to go up into Madison and win. They thoroughly beat Wisconsin, too (83-58). ... (With) Michigan, they were trailing by, I think, 21 at one point and they managed to come back from that. That’s a win that, last year, they don’t come back from. Last year’s team probably gets beat by 40.
Basically the top three teams they’ve played this year is Gonzaga, Butler, Clemson and UNC, of course, so four teams. They looked fairly overmatched in each one. … Basically, whenever they get beat, with the exception of Ohio State in the Butler game, they’ve been beat from beyond the arc. Especially the (North Carolina) game, really torched them there and I wasn’t expecting that.
Q: You said (Keita) Bates-Diop is the go-to guy for Ohio State. What exactly makes him the x-factor and how can you see him giving Michigan State a fit?
A: I don’t know if I would describe him so much as “the x-factor,” I mean he is Ohio State’s most consistent player. You pretty much know what he’s going to bring. He’s their best player, for sure. One of the things he brings, he’s very big. He’s got like a 7-foot wingspan, and that helps him bring down just about any rebounds. The team itself isn’t great at offensive rebounding, but they’ve been very good at defensive rebounding, and he’s been a reason for that.
He also is, offensively, fairly versatile. He’s not a great 3-point shooter, but he’s also effective enough to the point where if a team leaves him open beyond the arc, he’ll make them pay.
Q: What exactly does Ohio State have to do — what are they best at as a team and what do they need to do to upset the top-ranked team in the country?
A: Pretty much everything has to go right for Ohio State, I feel like, in this game. I would say they’re a very good team in the paint. They’re fairly big. Even Jae’Sean (Tate), who’s not necessarily the most physical guy, he’s fast enough to be able to get in and make points in the paint. That’s really been the offense this year. They can make a 3 when they need to, but they’re not a great 3-point shooting team.
They’re good defensive rebounding, but they’re not a good offensive rebounding team. They struggled with that a couple of times this year. I think against a team like Michigan State that, at times, has given up some offensive rebounds, I think that’s an area where they could do well, but at the same time I know Michigan State is also a really good offensive rebounding team. I think that’ll be interesting, to see if Ohio State can get the better of them in that.
When (Ohio State) loses to teams, they lose because they give up a lot of points from beyond the arc, and they are not great at defending screens.
Score prediction: 80-65.
This is obviously the best team Ohio State is going to face all year. They’re a program that’s on the rise, they’re exceeding expectations, but they’re not there yet. They’re not that team that can hang with a No. 1 team. I expect a team that’s clearly more talented, like Michigan State, will prove it out there on the court.
For them to upset Michigan State, everything is going to have to go right ... and basically they have to out-physical, outplay Michigan State in the paint, and I don’t know if they can do that, but we’ll see.