Five Things We Learned: Hoops Opener Edition
By Brandon Castel
Ohio State Head Coach Thad Matta opened his eighth season in Columbus with another victory. He has a lot of them now.
On the scoreboard, it was a convincing 73-42 victory over Wright State University, but Matta will have plenty of concerns heading into next week’s matchup with No. 10 Florida.
We take a look at five important things we learned from Friday night’s season-opener.
1. The team is going to be very good, eventually. There is a lot of talent on this Ohio State roster, maybe more than any other year under Matta. OK, probably not, but there is more depth on this roster than he has had in years; and that’s not just depth, but guys with talent. Sam Thompson and J.D. Weatherspoon are probably the ninth and 10th guys on the roster and they both look like guys with bright futures.
Jared Sullinger, William Buford and Aaron Craft need no introduction, but it is going to take time for this to come together. They might be ranked No. 3 in the country, but I doubt Matta feels the same way about this team right now as he did about the one he took into the NCAA Tournament last year. A lot of new guys are playing new roles this year and that is going to take time to develop. They could face a few bumps along the way, especially early in the year.
2. Defense will carry this team. There is going to be a lot of attention on Sullinger and Buford as scorers, but this team will only go as far as the defense can take them. Matta knows that. He knew that last year, although it really was the offense that failed them against Kentucky. That Matta jokes about shedding a tear when he thinks of not having David Lighty around, but there is probably some truth to that. Lighty was such an intense guy on defense. He loved it and he loved being known for it. He never took a play off and guys around him knew they better not either. That’s where Craft comes in. He has to be that kind of guy for the Buckeyes, but he isn’t motivating a group of veterans. The Buckeyes have to get guys like Deshaun Thomas and Buford to play as hard at the defensive end as they do at the offensive end. Matta has always been great at that, but it takes time for the young guys to realize the importance.
3. Deshaun Thomas is trying to change his thinking, but…it’s not going to happen over night. Thomas had a rough start to the game. He took some bad shots, had some worse turnovers and gave up easy baskets at the other end. It looked liked same old Deshaun, but then something happened. He didn’t completely collapse mentally the way he would have as a freshman. He stayed with the game, got on the offensive glass and scored some easy baskets inside. He finished with nine points and five rebounds, pretty respectable numbers for 26 minutes. Now he needs to clean up his shooting percentage (3-7) and turnovers (4) if he wants to stay in the starting lineup.
4. Matta may actually use his bench. It was a 31-point victory Friday night, but it was interesting that Matta used all 12 of his players in the game. That means he isn’t planning to redshirt freshman Trey McDonald, but it also means Matta might be ready to use more guys this year. We thought that last year, but even when this game was close, Matta was playing guys like Thompson, Weatherspoon, Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams. He is still trying to figure out his best rotations and which guys work best with which other guys, but it just seems like he won’t be able to keep all of these guys on the bench. The most interesting battle won’t be between Lenzelle Smith and Jordan Sibert, both of them are going to play decent minutes. The biggest battle will be between Ravenel and Williams for playing time behind, or possibly even with, Sullinger.
5. Shannon Scott is going to make this look easy. My colleague, Tony Gerdeman, said it best: Scott looks like an ACC point guard playing in the Big Ten. The last time Ohio State had anyone who could get the ball up the floor as quickly as Scott, they were playing for a national championship. It’s far too early to put Scott in Mike Conley’s league, and frankly he hasn’t done anything to make us draw that comparison yet, but the freshman out of Georgia is a blur with the ball in his hands.
It’s clear the coaches want the ball in his hands when he’s on the floor and they want him bringing it up the court as quickly as possible. That meant about three seconds Friday night. It will be interesting to see how Scott’s game develops, because he is not a finish product yet. He isn’t Mike Conley or Ty Lawson or Raymond Felton, but he could potentially be that type of player for the Buckeyes if he develops some shooting ability to go with his quickness. His dad certainly was.
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