The Ohio State basketball program has high expectations heading into the 2013-14 season, but there will undoubtedly be some pitfalls along the way.
The Buckeyes are deep and talented on the perimeter, but their interior play could very well leave much to be desired. Amir Williams is a question mark, freshman Marc Loving is talented but a bit undersized for the Big Ten and post depth is virtually nonexistent.
This could lead to some mismatches during the season. Read on to see four in particular that Ohio State may be dreading (keeping in mind that this doesn’t mean the Buckeyes will lose these games, just that they may cause Thad Matta headaches).
Wisconsin embarrassed Ohio State last season in the matchup in Madison. Sure, the Buckeyes knocked off Bo Ryan’s squad in the other two showdowns, but the way the Badgers stifled the Scarlet and Gray’s offense last year will certainly be in the back of Thad Matta’s mind heading into the 2013-14 campaign.
Ken Pomeroy ranked Wisconsin second in the country in pace-adjusted defense last year (behind only national champion Louisville), and Ryan’s defensive formula will still be in place this season.
Ohio State’s half-court attack is certainly a point of concern right now, especially without Deshaun Thomas there to lead the Big Ten in scoring, and Wisconsin is well-equipped to turn that into a mismatch with its suffocating defense.
Look for these two squads to split in the regular season—as they so often do—and possibly get another rubber match in the Big Ten tournament.
Ohio State has a handful of potentially challenging nonconference games on the 2013-14 slate, and the trip to Marquette certainly qualifies as one of them.
This is a potential mismatch because of one man: Davante Gardner. He is an absolute beast down low and will likely continue his ascension as a senior. Last year he averaged 11.5 points a night behind 58.5 percent shooting, numbers which should improve as he becomes one of the Golden Eagles’ go-to guys this season.
Amir Williams will certainly have his hands full with Gardner. He is exactly the type of physical big man that has given Williams trouble during his first two years in Columbus.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, Williams will have a height advantage. It will be critical for the Buckeyes’ big man to stay out of foul trouble in this one.
For as much talent as was on Michigan’s roster in the 2012-13 season, Ohio State was as well-equipped to handle it as any team in the nation.
The combination of Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith Jr. were instrumental in defending the backcourt duo of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., and it created something of a stalemate. The two rivals split their two matchups in nail-biting fashion.
This year the Wolverines will rely heavily upon Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. McGary will cause Amir Williams some problems (seeing a pattern here?) because of the versatility in his game.
Furthermore, Robinson could cause matchup problems if LaQuinton Ross is forced to defend him for long stretches. Logic would imply that Sam Thompson will defend Robinson, but if he is occupied elsewhere depending on the height on the floor (neither team has tons of depth down low), Ross could find his suspect defensive skills tested.
Robinson and McGary will likely have productive games against the Buckeyes. The key will be if Ohio State can keep the rest of the Wolverines in check.
Michigan State is the early favorite for the Big Ten title (although the Buckeyes and Michigan will both have something to say about that), and a big reason why is big man Adreian Payne.
Payne is the exact type of versatile player that every team in the country covets. He can hit the three, drive around defenders with impressive ball-handling skills, post up opponents and hit the open guy when double teams come.
He is on the short list of candidates for the Big Ten Player of the Year award, and once again Amir Williams will have an issue in this matchup. Williams won’t be able to handle Payne on the perimeter, which means he will have to back off the Spartans’ playmaker and hope he misses his outside shots.
Michigan State’s overall physicality may also cause problems for the Buckeyes down low, but if Aaron Craft dominates Keith Appling like he did last year, Ohio State will have a mismatch advantage of its own.
The winner of these games will go a long way towards determining the ultimate conference champion.
Follow and interact with Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.