Ohio State vs. Rutgers
When: 7 p.m. TODAY
Where: Rutgers Athletic Center; Piscataway, N.J.
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: OSU-IMG Sports Network (63 stations), Sirius 135/XM 1195, WBNS-FM (97.1), WBNS-AM (1460)
Records: Ohio State 14-4, 5-0 Big Ten; Rutgers 11-7, 1-4
G C.J. Jackson, 6-1, Jr., 13.6
G Kam Williams, 6-2, Sr., 8.3
G Jae’Sean Tate, 6-4, Sr., 12.9
F Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7, Jr., 20.3
C Kaleb Wesson, 6-9, Fr., 11.3
Key reserves: C Micah Potter, 6-9, So., 3.9; G Musa Jallow, 6-5, Fr., 3.3; G Andrew Dakich, 6-2, Gr., 3.6; F Andre Wesson, 6-6, So., 2.2; F Kyle Young, 6-8, Fr., 1.8
G Corey Sanders, 6-2, Jr., 14.2
G Geo Baker, 6-4, Fr., 11.2
F Issa Thiam, 6-10, So., 7.7
F Eugene Omoruyi, 6-7, So., 8.1
C Shaquille Doorson, 7-0, Jr., 2.2
Key reserves: G/F Mike Williams 6-2, Sr., 9.2; F Deshawn Freeman, 6-7, Sr., 12.0; C Candido Sa, 6-9, Sr., 1.7; C Mamadou Doucore, 6-9, Fr., 3.8
Rutgers remains the Big Ten’s lowest-ranked team, but there are reasons to believe the Scarlet Knights could present significant problems for the streaking Buckeyes. Aside from the earned impression that Rutgers is simply playing harder than in the past and has better talent, it is the Big Ten’s second-best team in defensive turnover percentage according to KenPom.com.
The Scarlet Knights are second in the conference in turnover margin at plus-4.4 and are forcing 15.5 turnovers per game, also second-most in the conference.
So while it’s true that Ohio State has done a better job of taking care of the ball lately, it’s also true that it will be tested like it hasn’t been recently. Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann said as such when asked after the Maryland game Thursday night why the Buckeyes have cut down on their turnovers.
“Just better decisions, more understanding of how important that is to us,” he said. “And our guys having a better understanding of offensively what we’re trying to do. Probably also us putting our guys in better position. I don’t know that we always put our guys in the best position early because you’re still trying to figure out your team a little bit, but just a greater appreciation for the basketball, as much as anything.
“That’s going to get tested against Rutgers. That’s going to get tested against teams in our league like Illinois who that’s what they do is turn you over. The last two teams we’ve played, that’s not really been a strength for them. Michigan State’s an elite defense, but they don’t really turn you over.”
Overall, Rutgers is ranked 24th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. At 61.7 points allowed per game, the Scarlet Knights boast the Big Ten’s stingiest defense.
“Everybody knows (about them),” Tate said. “Rutgers, in my opinion, is one of the toughest teams in the Ten. They’re going to play hard the whole game. They’re very athletic. They’ve got guys who can really go. You saw that (Wednesday) night, (when they lost in overtime at Michigan State). We celebrate this one tonight, but our preparation is going to be key going into a pretty good Rutgers team.”
*Tate said the Buckeyes aren’t getting too full of themselves after starting the Big Ten with five straight wins.
“Because we’re 5-0, it’s all just been about our approach, our approach every day in practice, our approach in pregame,” he said. “We were picked one of the worst teams in the Big Ten. No matter if we are 5-0, we’re going to continue to play with that chip on our shoulder. That’s really been a key to our success, being on a team where guys are so unselfish. We enjoy playing with each other and love each other on and off the court. Those are the two big keys to why we are 5-0.”
*In his last three games, Bates-Diop is averaging 28.3 points and is shooting 60.4 percent (32 for 53) from the floor including 55.6 percent (10 for 18) from three.
*Holtmann is the sixth coach in Big Ten history to open his career 5-0 in conference play and the first cine Tom Davis started 6-0 with Iowa in 1987.
Davis and Holtmann are the only ones to do so since Iowa’s Bucky O’Connor opened 5-0 in 1952. The record for the best start goes to Wisconsin’s Walter Meanwell, who opened 12-0 in 1912. That also happens to be the same year the Titanic sunk.
*Ohio State is 4-2 against Rutgers, but the last game between the teams was the final one of the Thad Matta era. In the first round of the Big Ten tournament last season, the Scarlet Knights owned a 22-6 advantage in second-chance points and won the rebounding battle 47-31 in a 66-57 win that helped keep the Buckeyes from even earning a bid to the NIT.
*With a win today, Ohio State will officially tie my predicted Big Ten win total for the season. In my preseason predictions, I had the Buckeyes finishing 16-15 overall, 6-12 and 12th in the Big Ten.
What does KenPom say?
According to the advanced statistics of KenPom.com, Ohio State has a 73 percent chance to win today’s game. After climbing 12 spots to No. 20 in the national rankings following the win against Maryland, Ohio State is projected to beat Rutgers by a score of 71-64. The Scarlet Knights are ranked No. 119 in the country.
Today’s Dispatch features an in-depth feature on Bates-Diop and what has gone into his breakout season. You can read it by clicking here.
In the win against Michigan State, the Buckeyes dusted off a few lineups. Here’s some analysis.
The Maryland postgame blog features some insight into the addition of Dakich and how desperate the Buckeyes were for bodies this past summer. Click here.
Ethan Morton, a point guard prospect in the class of 2020, enjoyed his unofficial visit for the Michigan State game. Read about it here.
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