Greetings World! and How Real is the Buckeyes' Hot Start?
Updated: Dec 4, 2019
Alright. First blog post, deep breath, here we go. Or should I say, And Here. We. Go. Shoutout Jon Rothstein.
Anyway... how 'bout those Buckeyes! The boys from Columbus are 7-0, and while only two of those wins are against teams you'll probably ever make an effort to watch on TV once conference play starts, 1) you can only beat the teams in front of you, and 2) they absolutely walloped a team in Villanova that I believe is very, very good(not the boldest prediction, I know). Not only is their defense looking like one of the best in the country so far (they made Saddiq Bey and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl look like they took a wrong turn finding their seats and accidentally stumbled onto the court) but their offense is extremely solid as well. Junior Kaleb Wesson - who is an absolutely huge human in the best sense of the term - really encapsulates this team's identity. He can dominate inside with the best of them at 6'9" 270lb.(9.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg) and can also stretch the floor(40% from deep). OSU is similarly shooting 39.7% from beyond the arc and a truly impressive 54.5% from within it. Obviously, it's not just Wesson getting the job done. A pair of underclassman guards in sophomore Duane Washington Jr.(10.1 ppg, 2.0 apg) and freshman four-star recruit D.J. Carton(10.4 ppg, 2.9 apg off the bench) are the secondary scorers while junior forward Kyle Young(8.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg) does a little bit of everything and provides extra muscle in the front court. So far, this team looks like they could contend for their first Big 10 title since they were joint-winners in 2012 and could go far in March.
However, HOWEVER... that pesky "so far" is still carrying a lot of weight. Besides beating 'Nova, their best win was against a Cincinnati team(#50 KenPom) that is under new management in the first game of the season. Beyond that, they haven't played any team ranked better than 108th on KenPom.
(I know we've just met, but I should tell you now I take KenPom very seriously)
But don't fret, Buckeyes! The resume builders are gonna feel like they're coming from every which way soon enough. UNC and Cole "Terminator" Anthony get first crack on Wednesday.
Side-note: did anyone see Cole Anthony meet Oregon's Shakur Juiston at the rim and send him home? I'm serious, that man should be home, in bed, recovering - mentally and physically. Juiston is a 6'7" fifth year senior. He's a grown man. Cole Anthony told him to pack his things. He didn't even say please.
But I'm getting off track. Someone on Ohio State is going to need to guard him, and I'm not quite sure who it is. I love Ohio State's backcourt on offense but defensively I worry they're a bit small to deal with Anthony for an entire game(the tallest of their four rotation players listed as a guard is 6'3"). Plus, you can't just worry about him. Armando Bacot, Brandon Robinson, and Garrison Brooks are all players who can both get buckets and play defense as well. That's not to say OSU can't pull off what KenPom believes would be a slight upset, they are a great two-way team. I do believe if this team is going to challenge the best in the country, their best players are going to have to take more responsibility on offense. Kaleb Wesson's usage rate needs to rise above the 25.6% mark it's at right now. If Carton continues to come off the bench as the 6th man, his usage rate really needs to rise above the 23.9% rate it is at now. Egalitarianism on offense is great when you're playing Kent State and UMass Lowell. It gets all but the very historically best teams killed against top competition.
After UNC the tests keep coming. Between UNC and January 7th, the Buckeyes play Penn State(#24 KenPom), Kentucky(#7), West(Press) Virginia(#34), and Maryland(#8). I would love to look into my crystal ball, but there's really no way to know how this stretch is going to go. No one has any idea how good this team is. I mean, it's college basketball in December, no one has any idea how good any team is in December(except for DePaul. DePaul is going all the way). We're all putting a frankly ridiculous emotional investment in the hands of a handful of our respective 18-23 year olds. On January 8th, this team could have risen to the #1 rank in the nation(given a Louisville slip) or they could have fallen out of the rankings entirely. If I were one of their fans I'd be thrilled if they came out of UNC to UMD 3-2, while picking up the lesser wins in between.
But hey - Kaleb Wesson is the real deal, dynamic offensive guards that can shoot are the most valuable commodity in the college game, and Chris Holtmann is a freaking wizard. Who knows, there's a real chance the Buckeyes are still undefeated in January. Buckle up Big 10, the football school is knocking on your door. I personally can't wait, both for this team and the entire rest of the season.
Let me know on Twitter what you guys think, I can't wait to write about the rest of this season and all the great storylines that come up along the way!