Looking at the schedule for the 2015-2016 men’s basketball season, one thing jumps out straight away – the out-of-conference schedule is not the usual slate of cupcakes. The Buckeyes had a tradition the last few seasons of being woefully unprepared for the stiffer competition of the Big Ten because of an embarrassingly easy early schedule.
Not this year. Which is unfortunate because this is the year in which a young team could use the extra confidence boost afforded by a soft schedule. I think the Buckeye teams of the last few years would have greatly benefitted from a competitive early season schedule. I know schedules are planned far in advance which makes it difficult to plan for competitive matchups, but we finally got the out-of-conference schedule we’ve been looking for – it just so happens that we get it when we have a very young team.
But that’s no reason to not be excited. There’s going to be some great games throughout the year and I’m stoked to see who emerges from this team as a leader and a playmaker. Without further ado, here are some of the games I’m looking forward to most this season.
November 8: Ohio State vs. Walsh
Ok not a good matchup, but I love watching the first game just see how terribly wrong my off-season predictions really were. Remember when Matta played only a 2-3 zone during last year’s out-of-conference? God damn I love November basketball.
November 27: Ohio State vs. Memphis in Miami, FL
The Buckeyes will take their talents to South Beach on November 27 to take on the Memphis Tigers as part of the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational. The Tigers had a down year last season, finishing only 18-14 in the unimpressive AAC conference.
You would have to guess the Buckeyes will be favored in this game based on preseason predictions. According to Bovada, Ohio State has 75:1 odds of winning the national championship and Memphis is down at 250:1. Of course this is influenced by Ohio State fans being more likely to bet on their team (don’t judge me – it’s 75:1 odds!), but if both teams start undefeated I would guess the Buckeyes will be favored.
Memphis has had very good teams in the past, though, and each year teams come out of nowhere to surprise people. It’s what makes college basketball fun. Anyone can win on a given night.
December 1: Ohio State vs. Virginia
The B1G/ACC Challenge (a beautiful tradition) brings the Virginia Cavaliers to the Jerome Schottenstein center on December 1. Virginia returns 4 starters from a team that finished the season with a 30-4 record and finished first in the loaded ACC conference. Virginia is currently ranked 6 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll and is getting 18:1 national championship odds.
I’m predicting a loss for the Buckeyes on this one. Virginia is known for their stifling defense and this year’s Buckeyes squad is devoid of playmakers who can get decent shots when they’re closely guarded. I’m praying we can get to 40 points. If we do crack 40 or 50 points, though, it will be really telling. Someone will have to be creating their own shot because Virginia will grind your offensive system to a halt. I don’t know who that guy will be. Can Loving develop the ability to create his own shot? Will Tate be more involved in the offense? Are the freshman guards Lyle or Harris going to break out as stars? I have no idea, but it could get ugly unless someone is able to put the team on their back.
December 12: Ohio State at UConn
The Buckeyes next challenge will be in hostile territory at the Gampel Pavilion (Gampel is a funny word) against the University of Connecticut Huskies. While Connecticut is probably the most forgettable state in the entire U.S., UConn basketball has certainly been memorable recently. Over the last 16 years, UConn men’s basketball has won 25% of the national championships. That’s pretty good.
The Huskies probably won’t be making a tournament run this year. They lose they’re best player, Ryan Boatwright, but have enough talent to be a solid team. Daniel Hamilton showed potential as a playmaker as a freshman last season and Seton Hall transfer, Sterling Gibbs, was one of the best players in the Big East last year.
This will be a good test for the Buckeyes. UConn is beatable, but it will be a tough environment playing on the road. I’m excited to see the coaching chess match between Matta and Kevin Ollie – 2 of the better coaches in the NCAA.
December 19: Ohio State vs Kentucky in Brooklyn, NY
This one’s a doozy. The Buckeyes face-off against Kentucky in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn as part of the CBS Sports Classic. The Wildcats will be one of the best teams again, even after losing 6 players to the NBA draft this year. They share the #1 ranking by the Coaches preseason poll with North Carolina and Bovada is currently giving them 7:1 odds to win the National Championship.
Kentucky returns 3 key players – Tyler Ulis, Alex Poythress, and Marcus Lee – but once again it’s about the new crop of freshman Cal has brought in. Jamal Murray will likely start in the backcourt and looks like he will be an immediate contributor on offense for the Wildcats. Skal Labissiere is the new Kentucky big man that will make the Top 10 highlights with his blocks and alley-oop dunks. Isaiah Briscoe will probably start at shooting guard and is also a scoring threat with playmaking ability.
It’s always a big game when Kentucky is on the schedule and it’s in Brooklyn which makes it even more exciting. I’m having the biggest internal debate about whether I should take my little sister to this game for her birthday. She’s a Kentucky fan (I have no idea how this happened) and it would be torture watching her gloat as the Buckeyes get walloped, but it would be so awesome. (Just looked at flights. Fuck flying is expensive. Not looking good for basically a 2-day trip.)
January 16: Ohio State at Maryland
Every Big Ten game is exciting because of the history of hatred between OSU and the rest of the Big Ten, but this is the one I’m looking forward to the most. Maryland is ranked #3 to the start the season by the AP poll and has 10:1 title odds on Bovada.
Maryland’s big 3 is Melo Trimble, Rasheed Sulaimon, and Jake Layman. Trimble is the Big Ten preseason player of the year after being named First-team All-Big Ten last year as a freshman. Sulaimon is a transfer from Duke who was their best player off the bench before he got kicked of the team last season. Layman joins Trimble on the preseason All-Big Ten team after finishing last year on Third-team All-Big Ten.
I wasn’t impressed with Maryland when we beat them at the Schott last year 80-56 and I’m still skeptical of the hype surrounding this team. They have a lot of talent, but is Mark Turgeon a good coach? I could see them disappointing during the season and in the tournament.
Conference play is great as always so I’ll wait until the season starts to preview the rest of those games. These are the games I’m really excited for during the 2015-2016 season and they can’t come soon enough.