The Buckeyes dispatched the Campbell Camels without much of an argument, and face one more low major squad before their first major test of the season, a December third showdown at Louisville. That team is the James Madison Dukes, out of the CAA, and while the Buckeyes should still be comfortable favorites, JMU should prove to be a significantly better team than anybody else Ohio State has faced this season, short of Marquette.
James Madison is currently 4-1, with a KenPom ranking of 216, just ahead of Tulane. That isn't a great number, but it's far and away better than Campbell (309), Sacred Heart (266) or UMass-Lowell (314). The Dukes defeated Sacred Heart and future Buckeye opponent Colgate in relatively close games, while also beating Longwood and Radford. In their only game against an opponent comparable to the Buckeyes, at Virginia, the Dukes were clobbered, 79-51.
The more interesting storylines should still be with Ohio State. Shannon Scott has started off the season with a bang, still leading the country in 11.5 assists per game (no other player is averaging double figures), leading a Buckeye offense that is regularly shooting over 60% from the floor, a revelation to anybody who watched the team last year. Marc Loving had a coming out party against the Camels, dropping in 18 points, and the Buckeyes will likely continue to work a deeper rotation as they try to find the right matchups, especially with their frontcourt.
Trey McDonald, as unlikely as this might have sounded in the preseason, might be playing the best out of anybody right now, as he leads the team in rebounds, with six a game. Anthony Lee has struggled a little on the glass and with his defense, as the Buckeyes are working in zone concepts, but the season is also still very young. Amir Williams missed the game against Sacred Heart, and played only 18 minutes against Campell, adding 10 points and five rebounds. Who performs, and who can stay on the court, should be an interesting subplot against another team without elite size.
That isn't to say that James Madison is without weapons though. Their leading scorer, 6'7 swingman Jackson Kent, is a three-point specialist, hitting double figures in every game this year, and is shooting .542 from downtown, on his way to 15.2 points per game. The Dukes know how to take good shots, move the ball, and could make this game a little more interesting if Ohio State is sloppy defensively, especially in giving up inside looks. The Buckeyes still have enough size, shooting, athleticism and speed to win this game comfortably if they show up with full enthusiasm. We'll see if anybody gets caught looking ahead to Louisville.
Numbers to know
While Shannon Scott has been most noted for dishing out assists so far this season, he has also been racking up some steals early this year. For his career the senior has 161 steals, which ranks fifth all-time in career steals at Ohio State. Scott needs just three more steals to tie Dennis Hopson's 164 career steals for fourth all-time.
In the four games so far this season Ohio State has been scorching the nets, leading the nation by hitting nearly 61% of their shots. The only game when the Buckeyes failed to hit the 60% mark was against Sacred Heart when they hit 57% of their shots and eclipsed the 100-point mark. Last year the Buckeyes had a stretch of five straight games when they hit over 50% of their shots, and in total made better than half their shots in seven overall games.
The career record of the Buckeyes against the Dukes. Many might remember the last times these two met back in 2009 when Ohio State pounded James Madison 74-44 in the 2K Sports Classic, but the Dukes have actually registered a win over the Buckeyes. In March 1982 in Charlotte, James Madison registered a 55-48 victory over Ohio State.
Cast of Characters
So far the freshman is living up to the hype. Against Campbell, Russell scored 22 points and dished out seven assists. With his 19 points per game, Russell is the third leading scorer in the country among true freshman, despite playing the fewest minutes among the Top 20. The 22 assists by Russell is most among Top 25 rookie offensive leaders
The sophomore had his best game as a Buckeye on Wednesday night, setting a number of career-highs. Not only was his 18 points a career-high, but his two blocks and seven made free throws tied previous career-highs. By scoring double-figures in each of the first four games this year, Loving is starting to live up to the expectations he earned after being named Mr. Basketball in Ohio in high school.
The Dukes will get a key part of their squad from last year's team back for today's game. Nation was named Third Team All-CAA last year after registering 15.4 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game. This year the James Madison guard was named First Team Preseason All-CAA despite being suspended from preseason activities and the first five games of his junior season
The sophomore forward did his best to pick up the slack for Naton early in the year, scoring a career-high 21 points and grabbing eight rebounds in the win over Sacred Heart. Not only did Satkus hit all five of his shots in the contest, but he was aggressive, going to the free throw line 11 times and hitting 10 of those shots.