No. 22 Ohio State vs. Northwestern
When: 9 p.m. TODAY
Where: Allstate Arena; Rosemont, Ill.
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: OSU-IMG Sports Network (63 stations), Sirius 84/XM 84, WBNS-FM (97.1), WBNS-AM (1460)
Records: Ohio State 15-4, 6-0 Big Ten; Northwestern 11-8, 2-4
G C.J. Jackson, 6-1, Jr., 13.3
G Kam Williams, 6-2, Sr., 8.5
G Jae’Sean Tate, 6-4, Sr., 12.5
F Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7, Jr., 20.3
C Kaleb Wesson, 6-9, Fr., 11.2
Key reserves: C Micah Potter, 6-9, So., 3.9; G Musa Jallow, 6-5, Fr., 3.1; G Andrew Dakich, 6-2, Gr., 3.5; F Andre Wesson, 6-6, So., 2.2; F Kyle Young, 6-8, Fr., 1.9
G Bryant McIntosh, 6-3, Sr., 13.1
G Scottie Lindsey, 6-5, Sr., 14.0
F Vic Law, 6-7, Jr., 12.2
F Gavin Skellly, 6-8, Sr., 6.6
C Dererk Pardon, 6-8, Jr., 11.8
Key reserves: G Jordan Ash, 6-3, Jr., 2.2; G Isiah Brown, 6-2, So., 4.2; F Aaron Falzon, 6-8, So., 7.0; C Barret Benson, 6-10, So., 1.9
One year after going further than any Northwestern team in history, the Wildcats are struggling. At 11-8 overall, Northwestern needs only two more losses to match last year’s regular-season total, and it is widely expected at this point to miss the NCAA Tournament.
Looking at the Wildcats, though, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann sees an offense that will challenge the Buckeyes.
“Northwestern is, I think, as hard to play as anybody in the country because of how well they execute,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “Chris does a phenomenal job putting the defenses in difficult positions. They make you be really, really highly detailed and play at an optimum level. I’m sure that will be the case. That’s going to be demanded of us. It’s going to tax our defense as much as any team we’ve played against all year. A lot to prepare for as much as they run and as effectively as they run their half-court offense.”
At 73.3 points per game, Northwestern has the third-worst scoring offense in the Big Ten. It is shooting 42.9 percent, also third-worst, and allowing teams to shoot 43.7 percent, fourth-worst. The Wildcats do have senior guard Bryant McIntosh, a first-team all-conference preseason selection, but he’s been limited by a knee injury this season.
When healthy, he still presents problems for opponents. In answering a question about the point guard, Holtmann mentioned a few other key players.
“Great passer,” he said of McIntosh. “Great vision. Really good size for the position. Doesn’t turn it over. Hard to speed him up. He’s got a great pace to his game. The places Chris puts him make it very difficult. He’s just a big, veteran guard. He can make shots. He’s great at making plays in the mid-range too. Floater, mid-range, reversing his course and using a shot-fake he can be really effective. Lindsey and Law are really good, too. Any one of those three can get you, and I really like the Pardon kid inside, too. I’ve liked him since high school. Obviously there’s a reason why they had some of the preseason thoughts and I think they’re very capable of going on an extended run.”
I wrote about both teams dealing with success in today’s Dispatch.
*For the season, Keita Bates-Diop has the best individual plus-minus rating on Ohio State’s roster at plus-287. Jae’Sean Tate is next at plus-221, one point ahead of C.J. Jackson.
*For the first time this season, the Buckeyes have cracked the top 100 in offensive turnover percentage. They are ranked No. 99 according to KenPom.com, and Holtmann noticed.
“We finally cracked the under-100 in the turnover percentage rankings,” he said. “We’re 99 this morning. We threw a little party in our offices, celebrating that fact. It’s important for us to continue to improve our footwork, to continue to understand the right plays to make.”
*With a win, Holtmann would become the first Big Ten coach in 95 years to open conference play with seven straight wins. Iowa’s Sam Barry started 11-0 in 1923.
*Three of Northwestern’s conference losses have come on the road by an average of 13.7 points per game.
*Ohio State has held its last three opponents to worse than 40-percent shooting. In order: Michigan State (23 for 59, 39.0 percent), Maryland (22 for 60, 36.7 percent) and Rutgers (17 for 59, 28.8 percent).
*Northwestern is the Big Ten’s best free-throw shooting team at 76.3 percent. Ohio State is sixth at 72.6 percent.
* Ohio State has officially tied 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 66 percent chance to win today’s game. After climbing six spots to No. 14 in the national rankings following the win against Rutgers, Ohio State is projected to beat Northwestern by a score of 71-67. The Wildcats are ranked No. 78 in the country.
For your pregame listening, here’s a link to the latest BuckeyeXtra basketball podcast.
I caught up with Armaan Franklin, a prospect in the class of 2019 who attended the Michigan State game and holds an Ohio State scholarship offer.
If you missed Holtmann’s weekly call-in show, here are the highlights from this week’s episode.
Yep, they’re ranked again. Here’s Monday’s story on Ohio State getting back into the national polls.
From at Rutgers: D’Angelo Russell is back in the fold for the Buckeyes.