Division II Walsh this wasn't, but with the Ohio State Buckeyes playing host to one of the lowest ranked teams in DI hoops, the bar was awfully high in terms of minimal viable product for Thad Matta's 2014-15 Bucks as they tipped off their season Friday evening.
But with D'Angelo Russell again looking increasingly like a flight risk (if not relative flight certainty) after just one year in Columbus and Sam Thompson answering the questions surrounding his ability to evolve into a primary scoring option for the basketball Buckeyes emphatically, the Bucks cruised to a decisive win over the UMass Lowell River Hawks.
With the decisive win, Thad Matta moves to 11-0 in season openers at Ohio State and 15-0 in his head coaching career. The Bucks won't have long to rest on their laurels with Marquette and first-year head coach Steve Wojciechowski coming to town Tuesday night.
3 things we learned
1. The Bucks will be just fine relying on Sam Thompson and D'Angelo Russell. Regardless of how long D'Angelo Russell's tenure at Ohio State ultimately proves to be, the Bucks will be just fine during the 2014-15 season as they lean on him and senior forward Sam Thompson to carry the scoring load.
Thompson got out to a fast start and Russell showcased a similar bag of tricks as he did in the Bucks' equally lopsided exhibition win over Walsh last Sunday. The two even found one another as Russell threw up a no-look lob to Thompson who slammed it home for the first "Slam" Thompson moment of the young season.
A no-look pass late from Russell to fellow newcomer Anthony Lee led to a three-point play the old fashioned way and showcased once again why Buckeye fans will be well served to appreciate Russell for as long as they're lucky to have him.
2. The zone defense experiment is working just nicely. Though there was plenty of reason for healthy skepticism going into this year's team's move to zone defense, the early returns have been extremely positive.
The Buckeyes forced in upwards of 18 turnovers and completely dominated the glass with a huge edge on rebounding and limiting second chance shots.
Though obviously the size advantage the Buckeyes have over opponents of UMass Lowell's stature helps, if they can even use this as a foundation from which to build on, they should be more than fine.
3. Free throws are still a concern. It seems like every year now there are stretches where free throws prove to be the Achilles' heel for Thad Matta's bunch.
Though by all accounts the practice repetitions aren't a problem, as the Bucks face better and better opposition, they can't let freebies ultimately prove to be their undoing.
Trey McDonald will probably never be a 50 percent free throw shooter, but the rest of the team will need to up their games.