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You’re Nuts: Things to watch for in Ohio State men’s basketball’s opener against Oakland

It’s time to see if last year’s baby Bucks are ready to make the leap that so many people have been predicting.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Happy opening week, everyone! Ohio State’s first game is Monday night at home against Oakland, which means that we have officially made it through the off-season. If you read our basketball-related debate articles all throughout the spring, summer, and fall — kudos to you. The content will be plentiful for the next six months.

Last week, Connor and Justin made their pre-season Final Four picks. Connor went with Arizona, Arkansas, Creighton, and Miami. Justin also picked Creighton, but his other three were Duke, Kansas, and Michigan State. The people sided with Justin — 77% of the people, specifically.

After 124 weeks:

Connor- 56
Justin- 50
Other- 14

(There have been four ties)

Now that it’s game week, we’re shifting our eyes to the Buckeyes and their opponent this week, the Oakland Golden Grizzlies. We’ve essentially been previewing this season since January when it became clear that the 2022-2023 season wasn’t going anywhere.

There are plenty of storylines or areas of concern that we’ll be paying attention to Monday night, as we begin to learn more and more about the 125th iteration of Ohio State men’s basketball. Here are the specific things that Connor and Justin are going to keep an eye on Monday night.

Today’s Question: What will you be watching for in Ohio State’s season opener against Oakland?

Connor: Defensive rebounding

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Clare Grant/The Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ohio State was eighth in the Big Ten in defensive rebounding last season. That’s not awful, but it’s not where you want to be if you truly believe you’re capable of winning the Big Ten. They were pretty bad at this in the Dayton exhibition a few weeks ago, allowing the Flyers to grab seven offensive rebounds in the first half and another seven in the second half, leading to 17 second-chance points.

Overall, Ohio State only lost the rebounding battle 33-31 and actually out-rebounded Dayton in the second half. But the 14 offensive rebounds allowed aren’t going to cut it against good teams in the Big Ten, some of whom are comparable to the Flyers.

The reason it’s so problematic for this team in particular is because Ohio State has been downright stinky on the defensive end since 2020. They allow teams to go on extended runs where their opponent might score on five out of six possessions, so when the Buckeyes finally get a stop, they have to be able to get the rebound and end the possession.

Giving teams an additional possession when you have the numbers advantage below the basket for the rebound is a killer. Defensive rebounding has been one of — if not the singular — biggest priority for Ohio State this offseason.

It was one of Chris Holtmann’s first concerns after the Dayton exhibition last month. It’s something he has specifically mentioned Jamison Battle needs to be better at, but he also goes out of his way to praise other players’ rebounding when they do it well. During the Dayton game, the players on the very end of the bench (Owen Spencer, Colby Baumann, Bowen Hardman, and Kalen Etzler) were jumping up and shouting “board, board, board!” every time Dayton took a shot. And if one of their teammates grabbed the rebound, everyone on the bench pointed it out and shouted at their teammate on the floor who snagged it.

It’s something they’ve been emphasizing, and it’s mostly effort-based. We’ll see how the Buckeyes do against Oakland, a team they should have a size advantage over.

Justin: How the minutes are split at center

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Hopefully, there is not too much to take away from this one because the Buckeyes win by a bunch. But, no matter what, we are going to see Felix Okpara and Zed Key on the floor. The two questions are simple.

Will Okpara and Key play together? And, throughout the 40 minutes of game time, what will the minute’s distribution look like?

This has been a key topic on a lot of fans’ minds. Who will start, and more importantly, who will finish games? We did not get a great look at who will finish games in the exhibition game against Dayton, but Okpara did get the start, and it looks like Okpara will get the start against Oakland on Monday night.

This is a fun topic because Key and Okpara bring different attributes and skills to the table. Okpara is a defensive juggernaut that will affect every drive to the paint that happens and be a force for the Buckeyes as a rim protector. However, he has some growing to do on offense.

However, Key is an offensive threat that can give you 12-15 points per game and started last season with five straight double-doubles. But he is not nearly the rim protector that Okpara is. He is also a new man after he trimmed about 20 pounds off this offseason, and should help his agility in the paint.

Chris Holtmann has implied that Okpara and Key will see the floor together, but that is a wait-and-see for me. Floor spacing could be an issue with that lineup if Key has not added to his perimeter game. So we will see on that, but I am skeptical.


Which storyline will be more worth keeping an eye on when Ohio State takes on Oakland?

This poll is closed

  • 88%
    Defensive rebounding (Connor)
    (22 votes)
  • 12%
    How the minutes split at center (Justin)
    (3 votes)
25 votes total Vote Now