5 Things to Watch for in Walsh Exhibition
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Football season is winding down in Columbus, although Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have a chance to improve to 10-0 with a win over Illinois on Saturday.
Thad Matta’s Buckeyes also have a chance to improve on the hardwood tonight, as they host Walsh University in their only official exhibition game of the 2012-13 season. The game will not be broadcast live on television, but can be streamed online at BTN.com. It can also be seen in replay at 3 p.m. ET Wednesday on the Big Ten Network.
Here’s a quick rundown of five things to watch for tonight, or tomorrow, depending when you get a chance to check out Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft and the boys in action.
Photo by Jim Davidson
1. Deshaun Thomas. There’s not one specific thing to watch about Ohio State’s preseason All-American tonight – other than maybe his willingness to give up the ball when he faces a double-team – but rather the total package. We all know Deshaun can score. We also know he can rebound at the offensive end. What we don’t know is whether he can blossom into the kind of complete basketball player that can carry a team through the rigors of an 18-game Big Ten schedule, a conference tournament and a deep run in March Madness.
Thomas has dropped some weight to play in OSU’s more uptempo system this year, but it will be interesting to watch his progression from the No. 2 – sometimes No. 3 – scoring option to the guy who has to be a force every time he’s on the court.
Photo by Jim Davidson
2. Who’s in the middle. We know none of the returning big men on Ohio State’s roster are going to replace what Jared Sullinger meant to this team. That’s just a fact, and those guys know that. They have all said the key to replacing Jared is not trying to be Jared. The Buckeyes are going to play a faster, up and down style than they did last year, when most of the offense was run through Sullinger in the halfcourt.
It will be interesting to see which big man gets the most action tonight, and which guys are with which rotations. Initially, it sounded like Evan Ravenel was going to be the starter at the center position, but Matta said Monday he likes how Amir Williams and Deshaun Thomas have been playing off each other.
Matta and Lenzelle Smith both raved about the way Ravenel has performed in practice over the last month, so it will be intriguing to see how his game has progressed after two years of playing alongside Sullinger in practice. Williams is still the key inside to the way this team wants to play defensively, but Trey McDonald could be an intriguing option for Matta if he can really run the floor like they say he can.
Photo by Jim Davidson
3. Who is this LaQuinton Ross we keep hearing about? We got to see glimpses of Ross in a very limited role last season, but we’ve never really been exposed to the guy who is supposedly an NBA-ready prospect at the offensive end of the floor. It’s difficult to showcase those skills in the final minutes of a blowout, especially for someone who wasn’t exactly comfortable with his role in the system a year ago.
Matta said Ross has a much better understanding of the “meat and potatoes” of what Ohio State wants to do at both ends of the floor, so it will be interesting to see what this kid is capable of when he gets on the floor tonight. Chances are, he will be a little amped up for his first real playing time in front of a crowd at the Schott, but all the tools are there for him to be one of the better wings in the country. He’s 6-9 with a solid frame, great ball skills and a smooth offensive game that can go inside or out.
4. What’s new with Shannon Schott and Sam Thompson? Part of the reason the Buckeyes are rated No. 4 in the country, despite the fact they lost Sullinger and Buford is the fact many people are expecting a lot out of guys like Ross, Amir Williams, Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson. We know Scott and Thompson have the ability to be dynamic on the defensive end of the court, but this team needs them both to be viable options at the offensive end. Thompson might be the best dunker in college basketball right now, but we need to find out of these two guys have improved their jump shots, and their confidence, from last season.
5. How many guys will Thad play? We probably won’t know the real answer to this question after tonight’s exhibition game, but there is a real possibility Matta has 8-9 guys he can really count on in his rotation. Right now, eight seems to be the magic number, with Trey McDonald and Amedeo Della Valle on the outside looking in. McDonald is a rare big man who can run the floor and Della Valle is a dangerous outside shooter, which means both of them are capable of finding some minutes off the end of the bench this season.
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