Thad Matta's Buckeyes came into the season as a young, inexperienced group looking to craft an identity in the Big Ten. After five games, Ohio State's youth and inexperience has overpowered the talent that has flashed beneath the surface.
Last Friday, the Buckeyes locked horns with Memphis in Miami and gave the Tigers all they could handle in regulation. Jaquan Lyle, Keita Bates-Diop, and Marc Loving all played their best game of the short season and forced overtime thanks to some late game accuracy from deep.
However, despite the flashes of talent and potential, the Buckeyes fell flat in overtime and were not able to notch a single field goal. Unfortunately, that has been the theme so far for the Buckeyes: brief instances of success and talent with the inability to string together sustained success.
The Buckeyes are about to face off against what seems to be their complete opposite in the Virginia Cavaliers. Ohio state is full of underclassmen with little experience, while Virginia is loaded with upperclassmen with experience to spare. Ohio State turns the ball over at a blistering rate, while Virginia is near tops in protecting the ball and preventing turnovers.
In spite of a head scratching loss to George Washington, Virginia sits at 5-1, is coming off of a healthy 80-54 win over Lehigh, and will likely be a Final Four contender as the year continues. In order for Ohio State to pull the upset tonight, they will need to play a near perfect game on both ends of the floor.
Numbers to know
Ohio State is turning the ball over at an incredibly frustrating rate. 16.2 turnovers per game is in the bottom 25 in the country. Virginia, on the other hand, is second best in the country with a paltry 7.5 turnovers per game. For the Buckeyes to even have a shot they need to protect the ball.
The Buckeyes are currently shooting 58% from the foul line. That is putrid and cannot continue. If order for Ohio State to compete in this game, and future games for that matter, they will need to drastically improve their free throw shooting. If the team edges to 70% team shooting they will begin to hang around in more games down the stretch.
Sometimes a good way to gauge the current status of your program is to check out Ken Pomeroy's rankings on his illustrious KenPom site. As of today, Ohio State has plummeted to 74th out of the 351 ranked teams. Comparatively, Virginia is 3rd behind only Kentucky and Villanova. Ohio State is up against it tonight at home against a very good Virginia team.
Cast of characters
Lyle will be the chief protector of the basketball as the point guard for the Buckeyes tonight. In order to cut down on turnovers, Lyle will have to play a smart game that involves safe passes and a refusal to dribble into trouble. Lyle had his best game as a Buckeye against Memphis shooting 57% from the field and amassing 18 points. Hopefully he is able to build on that performance tonight.
All Buckeye fans should love Daniel Giddens. He is an absolute psychopath on the floor, running and attacking with complete reckless abandon. Granted, that type of play can get him into trouble with fouls and turnovers so he needs to control his aggression a bit. Giddens has begun to play an important role for the Buckeyes defensively as he is developing into a stalwart low post defender and shot blocker.
Brogdon is one of the best players in the country. Averaging over 16 points per game, he can light it up from behind the arc or take defenders to the bucket off the dribble. He is as well rounded a scorer as there is in college basketball. Stopping Brogdon is likely an impossible task for the Buckeyes. However, if they can bother him with stingy on ball defense they may be able to slow him down enough to hang around.
Gill is a senior on this Cavalier squad and helps to lead his team on both sides of the floor. He is second, only to Brogdon, in points scored with 12.5 per game and second in rebounds with 5.2 per game. Gill is a well rounded player down low that the Buckeye front court will have to stay aware of from the tip to the final horn. Given the emphasis on stopping Brogdon, Gill has the potential to benefit from defensive overcompensation.
How to watch
Game time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: 97.1 The Fan