Value City Arena
For the eighth time since the 2006-2007 season, Ohio State plays host to the Walsh Cavaliers in an early season exhibition game. Way back then, the North Canton based private Roman Catholic university was an NAIA school and members of the American Mideast Conference. During the last two years, the school has undergone a successful transitional process from NAIA to Division II, and as of this year, for the first time, are eligible for postseason play at the D2 level.
Last season, the two schools tangled at the end of October in a game that saw the Buckeyes prevail, 83-71. Walsh's long distance sharpshooting kept things close early (the Cavs led by six multiple times), but the Buckeyes' athletic talent differential took over in the second half. Behind 25 from Deshaun Thomas, the Bucks teetered around leads as high as 16 though Walsh's lack of quit helped keep things respectable.
Gone from this year's Walsh team is resident chill bro, Kenny Kornowski, now a professional basketball player in the Czech Republic. The Cavs will look to replace his 20 points per game, but should have a lot of help in doing so. Walsh brings back their four other staters, plus two others who started at least eight games last season.
Rian Burrell, the team's second leading scorer at 13.2 points per game, is coming off a second knee surgery in two years and remains a question mark for the team. St. Vincent-St. Mary product (and former Siena transfer) Davonte Beard is arguably the team's most athletic player. 6-5 Jeff Copeland, who was the Cavs' leading scorer against Ohio State a year prior with 16, should assist in shouldering the scoring load.
Joining Beard in the backcourt will likely be sophomore Jesse Hardin. The 6-1 guard missed 14 games a year ago due to academic issues, but as a 44% from the field shooter, could provide an instant lift to the Walsh offense. Senior point guard Brad DuPont (4 assists but 7 turnovers against Aaron Craft a year ago) is back for one final go at it, but former All-Ohio honoree at the high school level, the diminutive Zac Carter (listed at 5-9) hailing from Ironton should see some minutes at the one as well.
Two other returning seniors should be staples in the Walsh rotation. Croatia native Hrvoje Vucic gives the Cavs legitimacy in the paint with his 7-1 frame. The former Valparaiso transfer gives WC a size advantage over Ohio State and has pretty decent agility for someone of his build. Knoxville, OH native Ryan Vanderhorst was a super sub for 10th year head coach Jeff Young last season. Vanderhorst knocked down 44 of his 119 three point attempts (37%) on the team a season ago. He'll need to be on if Walsh wants to repeat the hot shooting they demonstrated in Value City Arena last fall.
As for Ohio State, this will mark a great opportunity for them to get comfortable in life after Deshaun Thomas. With everyone but Thomas and senior big man Evan Ravenel back, the onus will likely fall on the shoulders of LaQuinton Ross to make up for the lost scoring output. Aaron Craft's swan song should feature the requisite amount of #SWOON, and forward Sam Thompson should only be better as a junior.
Perhaps most interestingly, this game could provide a more than adequate opportunity to give at least one of two highly touted freshman, forward Marc Loving, some run. Loving is probably a season in a college weight training and conditioning program from being a real option at the college level, but as the AP Player of the Year in the state of Ohio the past two seasons, don't rule out him having some LaQuinton Ross-as-an-underclassmen flash in the pan type games here and there.
Kam Williams, the other inbound former 4-star frosh, has been sidelined with mono throughout camp. He can score in bunches when healthy, but he's still behind after battling the illness. Expect the lower key December non-conference games to be a better opportunity for him to gain experience.
Numbers to Know
As in Walsh's 3-point field goal percentage versus Ohio State's in their exhibition game a year ago. The Buckeyes' perimeter defense can't be much worse, and Deshaun Thomas' 1-for-6 from 3 effort likely didn't help their own cause.
Despite having a 7-1 center in Hrvoje Vucic, the Cavs managed but 2 blocks against the Buckeyes last season. The Buckeyes, by comparison, swatted Walsh 12 times, 5 of them from returning starter Amir Williams.
Ohio State shot 45% from the court a season ago. Against Walsh, the Buckeyes were square at 50%. If they hover around their average from a year ago, they'll be fine. It'll take Walsh disproportionately outshooting the Bucks for disaster to set in, but OSU still needs to set a good precedent for the rest of the season.
Cast of Characters
Copeland was responsible for 16 points against the Buckeyes in last year's exhibition. He shot 51.7% from the field for the season while also averaging 5.2 rebounds per. Particularly if Rian Burrell isn't right or outright can't go, he'll be expected to carry the load.
Averaged just 2.7 points per game a year ago and appeared in but six contests. However, our former Walsh spirit animal, Kenny Kornowski, says he's now "probably" the most chill player on the Cavs following Kornowski's departure. Good enough for rock 'n' roll.
What else is there to say? Second team preseason All-America, all-Big Ten, all-senior class, all-#SWOON. Craft is well on pace to become the first Buckeye to ever record 500 assists, 200 steals, and 1,000 career points.
Q. Ross becomes the de facto featured scorer for the Buckeyes. After averaging 15 points in last season's Elite Eight run (including three extremely memorable ones), Ross seems primed for the challenge. If he plays his way into departing early for the NBA Draft, the Bucks' '13-14 will be better for it.