One day after finals have ended for students at Ohio State, the men’s basketball team (8-3, 2-0 Big Ten) plays host to Appalachian State (5-6) for both teams’ first game in a week. The Buckeyes are coming off a dominant 97-62 victory against William & Mary in their first matchup since returning to their nonconference schedule.
Here is a rundown of what to expect in Ohio State’s 6 p.m. matchup against Appalachian State Saturday.
G — Ronshad Shabazz — Junior, 6-foot-5, 217 lbs., 21.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.5 apg
G — Justin Forrest — Freshman, 6-foot-2, 195 lbs., 16.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.5 apg
F — Tyrell Johnson — Junior, 6-foot-8, 205 lbs., 8.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.9 apg
F — Griffin Kinney — Senior, 6-foot-8, 240 lbs., 11.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 0.9 apg
F — Isaac Johnson — Sophomore, 6-foot-9, 212 lbs., 6.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.4 apg
G — C.J. Jackson — Junior, 6-foot-1, 175 lbs., 13.5 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.0 apg
G — Kam Williams — Redshirt senior, 6-foot-2, 185 lbs., 6.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 0.5 apg
F — Keita Bates-Diop — Redshirt junior, 6-foot-7, 235 lbs., 18.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.5 apg
F — Jae’Sean Tate — Senior, 6-foot-4, 230 lbs., 12.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.0 apg
C — Kaleb Wesson — Freshman, 6-foot-9, 270 lbs., 12.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.8 apg
Scouting Appalachian State
The Mountaineers have been one of the more prolific offenses in college basketball to this point in the year. They are 18th in both points per game at 87.6 and 3-pointers made per game with 10.6.
The bulk of the Mountaineers’ offense has run through its starting point guard, Ronshad Shabazz. He will be the only player in this game with a points per game average of more than 20.
“[Shabazz’s] a lefty that can score at every level,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “He’s an older kid. Strong, built a little bit like [Ohio State forward Jae’Sean Tate] and can do it all in terms of scoring and facilitating for his team.
But according to Ken Pomeroy, much of that has to do with the type of opponents they have played. They have faced off against the 166th-best defensive schedule to this point, and thus their adjusted offense is only 124th-best in the nation.
While the offensive success might be in question, the Mountaineers’ ability to rebound well and outplay their opponents on the inside has been a standout feature of their season. They are tied for 27th in the nation, averaging 8.3 more rebounds per game than their opponents.
Appalachian State is not an exceptionally tall team. According to KenPom, it is only the 64th-tallest team in the nation. But the Mountaineers hold a significant weight advantage over many of their opponents. They have four starters that weigh in at more than 200 pounds compared to just three for Ohio State.
“Depth and size across the board, really maybe in some ways, as good a positional size as we’ve seen in terms of bigger guards, bigger wings. They’re certainly bigger than us at those guard and wing spots,” Holtmann said. “They’re a tough, physical, veteran team that’s going to play exceptionally hard and I’m interested to see how we’ll respond after kind of a week of final exams and you’re always concerned about any game, but certainly concerned about the game after finals.”
Avoiding the upset
On paper, Ohio State should handle its business against Appalachian State. Ohio State has appeared the more dominant team against stronger teams and seems to have more on-court talent than the Mountaineers. But with finals week having just taken place, a week away from action and knowing they are playing against a weaker opponent, this could set the stage for a potential upset.
Holtmann — citing a similar opponent in the University of Texas Arlington, who beat Ohio State in 2015 — said the Buckeyes are aware of the importance of not overlooking opponents like Appalachian State since that loss. He added that veterans on the team will be leaned on to keep a younger team focused on the matchup.
“What I rely on and lean on in those situations is our older guys who’ve been through it. Because young guys don’t know,” Holtmann said. “They just don’t know. It’s not their fault, but freshman have no idea how good players are at all levels of college basketball.”
Holtmann said that while he brought up the concept of losing to a heavy underdog if overlooking them, he is letting his veterans who were on the team that lost to UT Arlington — Bates-Diop and Tate — handle how much the team reflects on that loss.
Those two veterans both said that loss was the reason Ohio State failed to make the NCAA Tournament that year.
“They’re important games, and sometimes they can make or break you when it comes to March,” Tate said. “The only thing that me and Keita as older guys can do is learn our lesson that time and only that time, and just try to prepare the younger guys on the team who haven’t been in this situation.”
Both sophomore center Micah Potter and freshman forward Kyle Young were absent from the team’s win against William & Mary, but they both practiced Thursday, Holtmann said. He said the two will be gametime decisions. Young and Potter are dealing with ankle injuries.