I finished watching the replay of our glorified scrimmage vs Walsh last night (really well coached team). Holy KDB! I was pretty close with my predictions for the starting 5 lineup, but I waaaaaay underestimated Keita Bates-Diop. He showed some flashes of defensive intensity and playmaking especially late last year, but I wasn’t sure he would ever be able to sustain it. It looks like he’s ready to step up in that role and more.
Except for Lyle, the freshman looked really bad, but I’m not worried. It’s their first game and they’ll get better. Tate, Loving, and KBD will do most of the heavy lifting for this team and Lyle looks more than competent to run the offense. I’m a little nervous about the center position again this year, but I’ll give Thompson and Giddens some more time before I start to really worry.
Now for some BIG predictions.
1. Loving will finish top 10 in the nation in 3FG%.
Starting strong with my BIGgest prediction. Since I’ve watched him as a freshman in high school, Marc could always stroke it from deep. Through the 22 games prior to his suspension last year, he was shooting 53% on 3s. That would have been 5% higher than the best in nation if he sustained it through the whole year. Unfortunately, he went into a shooting slump after the suspension – hitting only 22%. This slump, plus the fact that he greatly benefitted last year from Russell’s playmaking, are a couple reasons for doubt. But I’m hopeful for a few reasons.
- Tate and KBD will draw help defenders with their playmaking.
- Thompson and Giddens will suck in defenders when they roll to the hoop off picks – creating space for weakside shooters.
- Loving will get looks in transition as defenders are scrambling. I think Thad wants to run and Loving could get some open looks in semi-transition.
This is not a safe prediction by any means, but it has more to do with my belief in Marc’s ability than anything else.
2. Ohio State makes the tournament.
I think this one is a little safer, although maybe not as safe as I would like. Predictions for this team vary quite a bit and I’ve seen a number of proclamations that this team is not tournament worthy. I’m in the optimism camp. Yes the team is young, but I think the young guys are more prepared than some of the young players we’ve had recently. Also, don’t underestimate Matta and his staff. They do a great job preparing these kids. I don’t agree with every decision, but Matta is one of the best and I trust him in the long run. I think this team comes together as the season goes on and they make some noise late in the season to push them into the Big Dance.
3. Matta won’t be sweaty before a halftime interview.
There’s no chance I get this one right, but it’s worth a shot.
4. The Buckeyes will finish 11-7 in Big Ten play (again).
This is a pretty optimistic prediction considering we lost our best player from last year, but I’m sticking with it. I think the tougher out-of-conference schedule will make us better prepared for the grind of the Big Ten and most of our tough games are late in the season when I think we’ll be greatly improved. We start conference play with 2 winnable games at home followed by a trip to Northwestern, and don’t get our first big challenge until the 4th game in Bloomington versus the Hoosiers. Michigan, Wisconsin, and Michigan St are all in the back half which gives us time to improve and maybe steal a couple of those games.
5. The Buckeyes make it to the semifinals of the Big Ten conference tournament.
This is getting pretty ballsy now. I really believe we’ll get a lot better by the end of the season and hopefully that means we’ll be hitting our stride when the conference tournament starts. Last years squad only made the quarterfinals before getting bounced by Michigan State, but Purdue made the semifinals just by beating Penn State. An 11-7 conference record will put us near the top 4 seeds of the conference tournament that gives an automatic pass to the quarterfinals. Finishing in the top 4 would be huge for this prediction.
6. Lyle plays the most minutes of any freshman.
Just based on what I saw against Walsh and what I heard all summer, Lyle is the most ready physically. Plus, he can play PG which is a position we’re thin at as well as switch over the 2. Giddens could push for minutes at center if Thompson struggles, but barring injury I’m pretty sure Lyle is a safe bet here.
7. Ohio State will improve their Kenpom defensive efficiency by 10 spots.
Kenpom defensive efficiency is based on points allowed per 100 possessions and is adjusted based on the quality of the opponent. Basically, it’s a more accurate measure of defensive efficiency than just points allowed per game or just points allowed per 100 possessions. Last year we finished 43 which is not terrible, but not good. I think we jump at least 10 spots to 33 or better just because I think Thompson and Giddens will provide dramatically improved rim protection over Amir. The perimeter defense has some holes, but I think Matta works out a way to use their length to cover the gaps (Looks like we’ll switch a lot which I like, but we should play some zone to keep teams guessing).
8. Ohio State leads the Big Ten in possessions per game.
This is my official prediction that Matta will want to push the ball. It makes too much sense for a team that lacks great playmaking in the half court and has young players with good basketball instincts and passing vision. Minnesota finished first in the Big Ten last year with 70.4 possessions per game while we lagged behind at 68.0, but I think we can make up the difference. The biggest challenge will be overcoming our foul problem. Defensive fouls slow the game down. We really need to cut those out quickly if we want to be successful.
9. Someone will make more than 5 free throws during the halftime contest.
Was anyone else appalled by the complete lack of athleticism by seemingly every participant in the halftime free throw competition last year? My god. This university is flooded with great athletes. We can’t find 2 of them to shoot free throws? I don’t have season tickets this year so I won’t be able to confirm this prediction, but can some one please keep me updated? We need to insure this atrocity is ended immediately.
10. KBD starts in the conference tournament.
This is a prediction I made before the Walsh game and based on that exhibition game it looks like Keita will start right away. I liked the flashes KBD showed last year, but I thought it would take more time for him to develop. Looks like he’s ready right now. Since this should be a lock, I’m leaving it in here so I don’t feel like a complete dumbass when I look back at these at the end of the season.
11. The number of Big Macs fans win will fall by 25%.
Last year the Buckeyes kept Ohio State fans well-fed with 11 games games at home going over the 80-point Big Mac threshold. It was a great season to be a season ticket holder. Although I think we pick up the pace this year, I don’t think we’ll have quite as many games top 80. Our out-of-conference is a little tougher and I think Matta is more concerned with getting his freshman ready for conference play than Big Macs. Should be a fair amount of free fries though.
12. Kam falls out of the rotation.
This prediction is just a way for me to share that I’m not a fan of Kam’s game. This prediction is maybe a little far-fetched because it would require a freshman to steal his minutes (probably Harris), but I just don’t see Kam playing a whole lot when the games matter. He takes too many shots just one step inside the 3-point line and, while is on-ball defensive intensity is there, he often loses focus off-ball.
13. Tate shoots more 3s
The unofficial starting lineup of Lyle, Tate, Loving, KBD, and Thompson is “positionless” and lacks a traditional 2 guard. That’s fine. We don’t have to call someone the “shooting guard” – we just need the most optimal lineup in at the end of close games. I think this is the most optimal lineup because A.) it features all 5 of our best players and B.) I think Tate is capable of working on the perimeter when the matchup requires it. Tate shot horribly from 3 last year (3/19), but I like his form and think he lacked confidence. If Matta gives him the green light against certain matchups, I think Tate could shoot a reasonable enough percentage to gain Thad’s trust.
14. Trevor Thompson reminds us how bad Amir was on defense.
Thompson still has a way to go as a defender and rebounder, but he has good length and quickness to make up for mistakes. Amir never really got the hang of the intricacies of help defense and ended up whiffing or fouling most of the time. Thompson will be better although it could be a rough start – his on-ball post defense especially could be much improved.
15. Grandstaff leads all Big Ten freshman in 3FG%
I have no idea if there are supposed to be some other freshman sharpshooters this year in the Big Ten, but by the end of the season I think Grandstaff takes advantage of the majority of open looks he gets.
16. Lil’ Dribblers halftime show will be the cutest thing you see all year.
If you’ve ever stuck around at halftime for the Lil’ Dribblers show, you know this prediction is a lock.
17. Jeff Boals will leave to be head coach somewhere else next year.
WHAT?!? This prediction is crazy and really sad to think about, but I think Boals is great coach and will get some strong offers to be the head man. I assume he does every year (at least he should), but for some reason I think after this year he finally accepts a job elsewhere.
18. As a senior, Lorbach will finally become the leader this team needs.
Jk. Congrats to Lorbach on earning a scholarship though.
Happy to say I am now a scholarship athlete. Big thank you Ohio State, the coaches, my family and friends for the support on my journey.
— Jake Lorbach (@BlitzkriegBach) January 24, 2015
It can’t be easy to put in all that time and effort just to sit on the bench, but at least he didn’t end up being another Mark Titus.
19. The Buckeyes will improve by 1 whole rebound per game.
We’ve been an underachieving rebounding team the last few years and we finished 102nd in rebounds per game last year. Improving by just one per game would’ve put us at about 50th last year. With Tate, Loving, KBD, Thompson, and Giddens all getting a lot of playing time there’s no reason we shouldn’t make this jump.
20. AJ Harris will literally break someone’s ankles and they will have to carry him off the court.
This prediction is a little sad because you never want to see someone get hurt, but I feel it’s inevitable. Harris can stop and start on a dime and it’s really only a matter of time before he uses it as weapon of mass destruction.
21. OSU will beat *ichigan.