If you're going to play some of the dregs of the low majors to prepare for conference play, you might as well pick some teams with hilarious names. The Buckeyes didn't disappoint in scheduling the UMKC Kangaroos of the Summit League, in what has to be one of the five best mascot names in Division One.
Last season was a struggle for the Roos, as they finished 10-21, and only 4-14 in the Summit League. They dropped their season opener against D2 NW MIssouri State, and were obliterated by Wisconsin and Michigan State during the regular season. Losing games to Big Ten teams is forgivable, as is getting beaten badly by Oakland or South Dakota State, who were the class of the conference. Losing two games to Southern Utah by double digits, ehh, less so. The Roos were young though, and return 4 starters from last year's squad, as they try to make a bit of a run in league play.
So far, UMKC finds itself at 2-2, with a KenPom ranking of 291 (just behind basketball powers The Citadel and Army). They were completely destroyed in their season opener against Seton Hall, 75-36, rebounded to beat D2 Lincoln (MO), lost a close one against Albany, and won a close game against Norfolk State. The Roos also have nonconference games scheduled with Louisville, Iowa State, and Kansas State, giving them additional measuring sticks before squaring off against the South Dakota States they'll need to beat to claim the lone Summit League bid.
The Roos boast an experienced front court, led by junior Kirk Korver, who yes, before you ask, is one of THOSE Korvers. Like the rest of his insufferable, floppy-headed brood, he's got great three point range, although Kirk isn't nearly at the same caliber at Kyle or Klayton. The 6'7" Korver is averaging 12.3 ppg, most of which come from 3, as well as three rebounds, while alternating between forward and center. 6'9" Garfield Heights product Fred Chatmon anchors the rebounding duties for the Roos, averaging a team leading 6.8 boards and 5.5 points per game. Chatmon is also the team's strongest shot blocking threat, but his horrible free throw shooting (40% for the year) is a big liability.
Senior center Brad Reid (from...wait for it...AUSTRALIA) is the team's tallest player at 6'11", and will get 10-15 min a night to rebound and fill the lane. Junior Trinity Hall will also get significant minutes down low, where he will rebound and block shots, and offers a more dynamic offense game than Reid. Trevor Franklin and Alton Tanner round out the group, and may get game time if any of the others get into foul trouble.
Sophomore Estan Tyler paces the efforts of the backcourt. Tyler is 2nd on the team in scoring at 11.8 ppg, and is far and away the best at getting shots for his teammates (4.8 assists per game, nobody else averages two). He's also one of the squad's better rebounders (3 per game), and can score by attacking the basket, or shooting from beyond the arc. Tyler does a little bit of everything for the Kangaroos, and if he isn't clicking, their offense is going to really struggle to find points. 6'6" swingman Thomas Staton alternates between the guard and forward spots, and will add more spacing and shooting (hit 3 three pointers in his previous game against Norfolk State, 3rd on the team in scoring). DePaul transfer Nate Rogers (6'1") will share backcourt time with Tyler. He's played in every game last season and this season, averaging 4.8 ppg, although he's struggled with his three point shooting and staying out of foul trouble so far. Junior Nelson Kirksey will also see time, as the 2nd guard or a 3rd forward. He's undersized for both (6'3"), and has struggled shooting a little bit, but has been able to force turnovers.
Offense appears to have been a struggle so far for the Kangaroos. They haven't done a good job at getting easy baskets for themselves, or converting free throws when they get the opportunity, and don't really have anybody on the roster other than Tyler who can create those opportunities. Given that nearly everybody on the roster can shoot (and will shoot) from three, they could be potentially dangerous if they were to heat up, but the athleticism and length of Ohio State should cause enough problems to keep them inefficient on offense. If Craft is able to bottle up Tyler, the Roos could be in for a long game.
Holy Diver. Not seeing much to indicate UMKC is capable of beating Ohio State. They shot less than 32% as a team against Seton Hall, and the Buckeyes defense is much stronger than that of the Pirates. Look for Craft to get into Estan Tyler's head, Sam Thompson and company to swat a few Kover jumpers back into the 2nd row, and for DeShaun Thomas to wrack up another 20 points. Hopefully games like this can give the Buckeyes young frontcourt more confidence and experience before they head into matchups with Duke, Kansas, and the Big Ten slate.
Ohio State 78 - UMKC 50