For the first time in more than a decade, an Ohio State’s men's basketball exhibition game is not expected to be a cakewalk.
The Buckeyes unofficially open the 2018-19 season with a game against North Carolina Pembroke, a Division II opponent that went 27-6 a season ago and has reached the NCAA Tournament in five of the last eight seasons.
It marks the first time Ohio State will play a Division II team not named Walsh in an exhibition game since it hosted Findlay to close the 2007-08 preseason.
The Oilers won that game 70-68. The result ultimately doesn’t matter, but second-year Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said he’s expecting a stiff challenge from the Braves that should prove beneficial to a team filled with question marks.
“You hope you get exposed in some ways, and we will,” he said before Wednesday’s practice. “There’s no question about that. I think you hope that your guys understand how you want to play. I think we’re going to face some things we haven’t seen or practiced because it’s a relatively unknown opponent.”
Not including the 10 practices afforded to the Buckeyes as part of their summer exhibition trip to Spain, Wednesday marked the 24th practice of the preseason. Roles are continually being defined and refined, a process that Holtmann said will certainly stretch into the season, but it’s something the players said they are looking forward to.
“I think everyone has the potential to play significant roles this year,” senior guard C.J. Jackson said. “I can’t really tell you what that looks like because it’s so early, but a lot of guys bring something different to the table.”
The Buckeyes did host Xavier on Saturday for a closed scrimmage, the details of which have been kept under wraps. However, Holtmann told fans Tuesday night that Ohio State won a game that saw the Musketeers playing without their primary point guard, and Wednesday he said seven Buckeyes hit at least one three-pointer during the game.
That scrimmage, as well as Thursday’s exhibition, will help Holtmann start zeroing in on a starting lineup entering Wednesday’s season opener at Cincinnati, which is the first of three tough games to open the season. Against the Braves, Holtmann looks to have a full roster to work with and said he will probably use a bigger rotation but isn’t sure that it will be “significantly larger” than in a regular-season game.
“I think we’re all anxious as a group, excited about this team, excited about the progress they’ve made in the preseason, but also anxious because we have a lot of questions we want to answer as a group,” Holtmann said. “I think this stretch will tell us a whole lot really quickly whether we like it or not.”