The Buckeyes are in a familiar position this season - talented, but inexperienced. We've seen that formula take OSU to the Final Four, and we've seen it take them to the NIT. I see something between those two results for this season, as the Bucks have a bit more returning than the did last year. The non-conference schedule is a good balance of the challenging and the cakewalk, though again I'll note that there's not a lot of teams "in the middle" on Big Ten non-conference schedules.
Overview:While the Hornets weren't a great team last year, they were competitive in the MEAC, going 12-16 after a 21-win 2006-07 campaign.
What to look for: S. L. O. W. These guys make Northwestern look like UNC, averaging 57 possessions a game last year.
Who to watch: DSU will struggle to replace Roy Bright last season. The senior forward took 35.8% of the shots while on the floor last year, 8th most in the country. Senior Donald Johnson will take some of those, but his shot diet was already substantial last season. How efficiently the Hornets convert those outstanding 450 shots will go a long way to determining how effective the offense is.
Expect the unexpected: B. J. Mullens should have a field day. Hornets opponents shot 55.4% from 2 point range last season. That should continue this season, as the Hornets' roster features no one taller than 6-7 this season.
Chance of an Ohio State victory: 90%
See the Minnesota preview.
Chance of an Ohio State victory:80%
Overview: Samford went 12-16 last season, but they weren't quite that "good" last year, faring relatively well in Pomeroy Luck.
What to look for: S...L...O...W. The Bulldogs ranked dead last in pace last season. There are football games that see more possessions than a Samford basketball game. Also, despite the fact this was the best 2 point shooting team in the country, nobody shot more 3s than the Bulldogs last year.
Who to watch: The Bulldogs lose their best two players from last year. Junior Trey Montgomery figures to be the go-to man this season. He'll need to cut down on theTOs significantly for Samford to have an effective offense.
Expect the unexpected: This is another team Mullens should beat up on, as no one taller than 6-8 is on the roster. And as you would expect from an extreme POT, the Bulldogs were horrible on the offensive glass.
Chance of an Ohio State victory:90%
_at Miami (FL)
_Overview: Miami is a trendy pick to join Duke and UNC at the top of the ACC this year. And why not - the Hurricanes return 79% of the minutes from a team that went 22-11 against D-1 competition last year.
What to look for: The Hurricanes are somewhat of an anomaly in the sense that despite the fact they were not a very good shooting team (specifically, two point shooting), they nonetheless had a very effective offense last season. They key was doing everything else - rebounding, holding onto the ball, and getting to the line - well.
Who to watch: Senior Jack McClinton was named to the All-ACC Preseason First Team, and for good reason. One of the best three point shooters in the country, McClinton took 28.6% of Miami's shots while on the floor last season, and his 42.7% three point shooting put a lot of points on the board. Forward DeQuan Jones is the #21 freshman in the country by RSCI. He should get a lot of playing time.
Expect the unexpected: This is a good matchup for the Buckeyes, who figure to have one of the best interior defenses in the country (again). Miami tends to get its points inside the arc.
Chance of an Ohio State victory: 35%
at Notre Dame
Covered in the Indiana preview.
Chance of an Ohio State victory: 30%
Covered in the Northwestern preview.
Chance of an Ohio State victory: 80%
Overview: The Dolphins might be somewhat of a dangerous team this year. They went 17-13 last season (though they ranked high in Pomeroy luck), and return 90% of the minutes.
What to look for: Jacksonville Head Coach Cliff Warren likes a challenging schedule. Last year, the Dolphins took on UAB, Michigan State, Florida, and Georgetown - all on the road (and all losses). This season, they face Florida State, Georgetown, Baylor, Georgia Tech, and Ohio State. They're going to need to hold onto the ball more this season (23.3 TO Rate) if they're going to spring an upset.
Who to watch: Marcus Allen is effective all over the floor. He can shoot from two (58.9%), three (35.1%), he can rebound, get to the line, and even block a few shots. Okay, he's not a great creator.
Expect the unexpected: Another Buckeye opponent that doesn't defend well from two point range. Jacksonville opponents shot 51.9% inside the arc last season. Mullens is going to look awfully good early on.
Chance of an Ohio State victory: 75%
Overview: Iona fell off a cliff two years ago. In 2005-06, the Gaels went 23-7 and went to the NCAA Tournament. In 2006-07, they won 2 games. Last year, they worked their way back to 12 wins. The Gaels return just 48.2% of the minutes from last year, so their upward progress will take a hit.
What to look for: The Gaels are pretty careless with the ball. They turned it over on 25.1% of their possessions last year. I'd argue that they ought to keep it on the perimeter more, but the 31.7% three point shooting speaks against that idea.
Who to watch: Iona loses forward Dexter Gray, who was the team's offensive leader last year. It'll be interesting to see who grabs the lion's share of shots in his absence. It could be Milan Pradanovic, Devon Clarke, or Gary Springer. My money's on Springer, who in addition to being Gaels' an efficient scorer on a high shot diet, was also an elite rebounder and shotblocker.
Expect the unexpected: What's a Gael, you ask? According to the internet, "the Gaels are an ethno-linguistic group which originated in Ireland and subsequently spread to Scotland and the Isle of Man." Think of them as the Fighting Irish from New York state.
Chance of an Ohio State victory: 90%
Overview: The Bulldogs had a pretty successful season last year, winning 19 games before getting blown out by the Buckeyes in the first round of the NIT.
What to look for: This game could have been a lot more interesting if 7-7 center Kenny George stayed healthy. Unfortunately, George had his right foot partially amputated after he was diagnosed with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is a potentially life-threatening staph infection. Here's hoping George is doing well on the mend and gets his degree.
Who to watch: Other than George, UNC-Asheville loses their most prolific offensive players last season. Reid Augst was a capable scorer in his role last season - but with increased shots I expect his efficiency to take a hit.
Expect the unexpected: The Bulldogs' defense was amongst the worst in the nation at forcing turnovers last year. That's good news for a team that might struggle in that area.
Chance of an Ohio State victory: 80%
Overview: Huggy Bear's first season at WVU was a success. The Mountaineers advanced to the Sweet 16 before falling to Xavier in overtime. WVU returns 59% of the minutes from last year's campaign.
What to look for: Somehow, Huggins kept Beilein's low TO ways while shooting a lot less three pointers. Of course, Huggy Bear has experience with this - his 2003-04 Cincinnati team was 10th in the nation in TO Rate, but was very much balanced inside and out.
Who to watch: Joe Alexander and Darris Nichols are gone, but WVU still has plenty of talent. Senior Alex Ruoff will lead this team, and is one of the best shooters in the country (over 60% on his 2s, and over 40% on his 3s last season). Number 30 RSCI recruit (and ex-Indiana commit) Devin Ebanks will also contribute early. The Mountaineers also snagged two more top 100 RSCI recruits.
Expect the unexpected: Despite the fact that none of its top seven players by minutes were taller than 6-8, the Mountaineers were one of the tallest teams in the country last season, which was certainly a factor in their excellent defense last season. That's what happens when only one guy on the floor is shorter than 6-6. Will that continue? Well, none of those top 100 recruits were shorter than 6-8...
Chance of an Ohio State victory: 50%
Overview: The Huskies, formerly of the NAIA, are returning to Division I after the school left in 1989.
What to look for: The Huskies went 13-15 last year in the NAIA, so this has the potential to get ugly. Though they did outscore their opponents, so this team was a bit better than their record indicates.
Who to watch: Senior Gordon Watt will once again lead this team. He's not the best shooter (49% from 2, 24.5% from 3), but he takes on the lion's share of points, and is by far the most effective rebounder for the Huskies.
Expect the unexpected: If Thad's serious about running, this game could be pretty high scoring. HBU games were played in the 80s last season.
Chance of an Ohio State victory: 95%
Miami and Notre Dame are very challenging road games, and the WVU matchup figures to be pretty exciting. There's a good chance OSU will be in the bubble discussion this season, but there aren't a lot of bubble teams on the schedule. Certainly victories over Miami, ND, or WVU will be helpful on Selection Sunday, but a win over an Illinois State or a Western Michigan is an easier proposition, and could have nearly the same effect.