I admit that even though I did make the homer pick for Ohio State to beat Michigan last Saturday, I don’t think that I actually believed that it would happen. Instead, I assumed that this week would be focused on bowl projections and getting hyped for Wednesday’s Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchup with Syracuse.
However, since so much of Buckeye Nation’s attention has been focused on No. 21 Northwestern and College Football Playoff rankings, I think that tonight’s first major home game for the basketball team has gotten a little short shrift.
So, to get an idea as to what exactly the Buckeyes are going to be up against, I spoke with James Szuba, one of the editors at SB Nation’s Syracuse blog Nunes Magician about what Ohio State fans should expect when the Orange come to town.
I also gave them the inside scoop on the Buckeyes, which you can check out here.
Land-Grant Holy Land: In the first five games of the year, Syracuse has struggled to score at times, is that a product of Frank Howard being out to start the season and relying on some inexperienced underclassmen in his stead (both of which I’d assume will work themselves out), or are their some offensive issues on this team that the Orange will have to overcome throughout the season?
James Szuba: Yeah, you bring up a good point. Syracuse looked like a fish out of water on the offensive end at Madison Square Garden. Jalen Carey is a freshman at the point from NYC and played really well in those games in Howard’s absence, but he’s a scoring guard. Howard is more of a facilitator first, and scorer second. I think the team just looked to go one on one and settle for threes in those two losses, but Howard should help run the offense and get these guys involved. He’s not the panacea, but a steady dose of Howard at the point should cure some of the offensive ails.
Land-Grant Holy Land: A lot of Ohio State fans think that Kaleb Wesson has the potential to be a dominant big man, but conditioning and foul trouble have haunted him at times in his first season and change in Columbus. Syracuse doesn’t really seem to have a natural fit to stopping the younger Wesson brother down low, so how do you think that they will attack him in hopes of neutralizing his offensive impact?
James Szuba: Nailed it. You know, the Syracuse guys looked reluctant to attack Bol Bol when playing Oregon, but the guys returned home last week against Colgate and attacked the rim. Getting to the tin was definitely an emphasis last game — I think it’s imperative for Syracuse to go at Wesson. Otherwise he could be a tremendous threat on the other end. The front court had a tough time against the UConn and Oregon bigs.
Land-Grant Holy Land: The age-old adage is that in order to beat a zone, you have to shoot over it. The Buckeyes are shooting fairly well behind the arc at 39.4 percent, even though they only make about eight per game. If OSU’s game plan is to shoot more from distance, what will be the keys for Syracuse’s defense to to limit their effectiveness?
James Szuba: That’s what Jim Boeheim wants you to do. Syracuse wants to force you to take tough contested shots from deep against the zone and keep it out of the paint. That’s why I think Wesson is so important in this game. I know he can shoot it a bit, but he has the potential to dominate inside. Syracuse needs to keep the ball on the perimeter and limit second chance points.
Land-Grant Holy Land: Ohio State has gone small a lot in the first six games with guards Luther Muhammad, C.J. Jackson, Duane Washington Jr., and Keyshawn Woods leading the way. If they do that on Wednesday night, do the Orange have the back-court depth to keep up with them?
James Szuba: Certainly. While Howard isn’t 100%, he’s back in the fold and Tyus Battle is built to last. Those two led the country in minutes per game last season. The Orange has reserves in Carey who can play either guard position and Buddy Boeheim (yes, Jim’s son) has been getting some minutes as well despite struggling to shoot it.
Land-Grant Holy Land: I am sure that Jim Boeheim will probably still be coaching the Syracuse basketball program when the asteroid that destroys the planet finally hits, but, should he announce his retirement following this season, is there a logical succession plan? Would Mike Hopkins or Adrian Autry, or would you want them to go completely outside “the family” for the hire?
James Szuba: Boeheim isn’t one for a farewell tour. Syracuse tried the succession plan when Hop was in the fold, but after he left there’s been no formal plan. I think Boeheim will coach his son for the next four years and we’ll see what happens after. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Boeheim will retire on his own volition. When it does happen, it’s Hop’s job if he wants it. After that you’d have to think it goes to either Autry or Gerry McNamara. After that is anyone’s guess.
Land-Grant Holy Land: So, what do you think happens in the game on Wednesday night?
James Szuba: I honestly don’t know! Seriously, I’m interested to see how this unfolds. Ohio State looks good thus far, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think Syracuse was better on paper. Still, they’ve yet to put it together and seem to be figuring things out for a team that should have some things figured out. Wednesday’s game will be telling.
Land-Grant Holy Land: Unrelated to the basketball game, how great is Dino Babers?
James Szuba: Syracuse loves Babers and is hopeful he’ll stick around for a while. Can you believe he was slighted for ACC Coach of the Year? (LGHL editor’s note: no, I cannot. Heck, I’d give him the B1G CoY award)
The No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes will host the Syracuse Orange tonight, Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. ET in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. The game will come from the Value City Arena in Columbus, and will be broadcast on ESPN2.