Preview: Chicago State Cougars at #10 Ohio State Buckeyes

USA TODAY Sports

The Buckeyes have one last game before the rigors of Big Ten play begin. We break down how the Buckeyes match up with the Cougars of Chicago State.

I'm not going to sugarcoat this for you people. Chicago State is horrible and this is a brazen example of a tune-up game before conference play starts. After the heartbreaking loss against Kansas though, maybe a good ol' fashion buttkicking is what the Buckeyes need, to give guys like Trey McDonald and Amedeo Della Valle some playing time, so they'll be ready when the "break glass in case of emergency" event invariably happens during some random February game in West Lafayette.

Last season, my hometown Chicago State Cougars weren't just awful, they were nearly historically awful. They dropped their first 16 games before pounding a D3 school, en route to a 4-26 record. They lost close games to good teams (an 8 point loss to #22 San Diego State), they lost in spectacular blowouts to good teams (a FIFTY point pounding from Wichita State), and they let themselves get killed by bad teams too, just for good measure, like losing by 17 to something called a North Carolina A&T. They did finish undefeated against Houston Baptist though, so at least they can hang their hats on that.

This season is looking a little better for the Cougars, but not by much. They're currently at 3-11, with two of their three wins coming against D3 competition. They've been competitive against an improved DePaul squad and against Oregon State, along with the requisite blowouts against good teams (Notre Dame) and uh..basketball teams (Tulane!). They did manage to beat a D1 team out of conference though, knocking off Alabama State.

Chicago State is finishing up their tenure in the Great West athletic conference, which, like the Big East, has schools in Houston and New Jersey. The Cougars share league membership with the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Houston Baptist, University of Texas-Pan American (I don't know where Pan American is either), and Utah Valley University , which recently transitioned from Utah Valley Community College, known only to me as the place for kids who couldn't get into BYU or got busted for possession of contraband, like coffee, or maybe a mustache.

This league is so motley that the NCAA doesn't give the Great West winner an auto bid to the Big Dance, although the league champion will get a birth in the CBI tourney. The league will likely disband next season, as Houston Baptist heads to the Southland conference, and Chicago State, UVU and UT-SA will join the rebuilt WAC, where they will join Seattle, the controversial and for-profit Grand Canyon University, Devry institute of Technology, and the St.George Utah YMCA. If you're asking why an HBCU in the far south side of Chicago is joining an athletic conference schools in Utah and Washington State, all I can tell you is realignment is weird, man.

Chicago State's best player is probably junior big man Jeremy Robinson, who leads the team in scoring (10.4 ppg). Robinson adds good size (6-9), and can score if he can stay on the court, but doesn't have range and struggles with foul trouble. He's joined in the frontcourt by fellow junior Matt Ross. Ross has a higher production ceiling (three double digit rebounding games in the past five games, scored 20 against DePaul), but also struggles with fouls and can shoot himself out of games. He's active defensively though, averaging nearly a block and steal a game.The Cougars get small in a hurry after those two, as their next tallest player who sees significant time is 6-5 Markus Starks, who averages 2 points and 2 boards a game.

Guard Jamere Dismukes leads the Cougars in assists with 2.8 a game. He's also a capable three point shooter (36% on the year), and will look to get into passing lanes. He doesn't have great size (6-1) though, and isn't a very efficient scorer. He's joined by 6-4 swingman Quinton Pippen, who adds 9.1 points and 3.8 boards. Pippen can do a little of everything for the Cougars, as he's shown he can get steals (1.6), rebound and distribute the basketball. He doesn't get to the free throw line, and he's capable of falling in love with his shot, particularly his three pointer. He's hitting those shots 38% of the time this year, but if he's having an off game, he'll be hitting 20% or less.

Evanston IL native Clarke Rosenberg is the team's second leading scorer at 9.6 ppg. The 6-3 guard can get to the line better than his backcourt mates, although he's struggling from stripe relative to last season (67% against 82%). He's also a ball hawker (1.4 steals), but averages as many turnovers as assists. He could end up as the team's leading scorer for the game, or get hounded by Craft and Scott into a 7 turnover performance that shatters his confidence.

Junior guards Greg Tucker (7.2 ppg) and Corey Gray (5.5 ppg) may also see playing time for the Cougars, as both will try to add flow spreading and defensive pressure to the Bucks.

Final Thoughts

The good news for Chicago State is that they are deep, and have multiple players who are capable of having a double digit scoring night. The bad news for Chicago State is that they don't have one particular main scoring option, and are horribly undersized. With only two rotation players taller than 6-5, the Cougars are a few inopportune whistles from a total disaster. A backcourt without great size, ball handling skills or jump shooting ability could be obliterated by Craft and Scott, creating easy baskets for the Buckeyes in transition.

Prediction

Holy Diver. Ken Pom has Chicago State as one of the 15 worst teams in college basketball, and it's hard to disagree. Matta and company should be able to win this one by as many as they want, with the only drama being what kind of development the young players get. Not that you shouldn't watch though. I'd like company in our open thread.

Let's fire up the random number generator and go Buckeyes, 91-60.

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