Ohio State (10-4, 2-0 Big Ten) begins the true Big Ten season on Jan. 4, but before then, the Buckeyes have one final nonconference game against Miami (OH) Saturday.
The last two seasons, it was a challenge for Ohio State to escape the nonconference slate without a bad loss on its resume. Although the Buckeyes don’t have a signature nonconference win, avoiding a gargantuan letdown against the Redhawks (7-5) will end the nonconference schedule without a major blemish.
The game tips at noon at the Schottenstein Center on ESPNU. Here’s what to expect.
G — Jake Wright — Redshirt junior, 6-foot-4, 202 lbs., 8.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 0.5 apg
G — Darrian Ringo — Junior, 6-foot-2, 173 lbs., 8.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 7.9 apg
G — Nike Sibande — Freshman, 6-foot-3, 178 lbs., 14.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.9 apg
F — Dalonte Brown — Freshman, 6-foot-7, 196 lbs., 7.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.3 apg
F — Logan McLane — Senior, 6-foot-9, 225 lbs., 10.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 0.9 apg
G — C.J. Jackson — Junior, 6-foot-1, 175 lbs., 13.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.2 apg
G — Musa Jallow — Freshman, 6-foot-5, 200 lbs., 3.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.3 apg
F — Jae’Sean Tate — Senior, 6-foot-4, 230 lbs., 12.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.1 apg
F — Keita Bates-Diop — Redshirt junior, 6-foot-7, 235 lbs., 18.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.4 apg
C — Kaleb Wesson — Freshman, 6-foot-9, 270 lbs., 12.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.7 apg
Scouting Miami (OH)
Ranked No. 257 by KenPom.com, the Redhawks are led by freshman guard Nike Sibande, who has attempted more than half his shots from 3-point range. Sibande is shooting 37 percent from deep and 44.4 percent from the field and plays roughly 31 minutes per game. If the Redhawks are to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the year, Sibande will need to have the best game of his career.
Miami is statistically one of the worst offensive teams in the country. Per 100 possessions, the Redhawks score just 95 points, according to KenPom, which ranks 312th in the country. They also turn the ball over on more than 23 percent of their possessions, ranking 322nd out of 351 teams.
In its two games against major conference opponents Missouri and DePaul, Miami attempted an average of more than 28 3-pointers and allowed the opponent to shoot 63 and 54 percent in effective field goal rate.
Outside of the first half against North Carolina, Ohio State has shot the ball well for the past month. Saturday against the Redhawks should be no different.
What to expect
Holtmann said Friday before the Miami matchup that his team didn’t play well through ball screens last Saturday against North Carolina. The Buckeyes will see plenty of that Saturday with the Redhawks trying to free Sibande on nearly every possession.
“Our ball-screen defense can be improved,” he said. “That’s going to be tested tomorrow. They have an outstanding point guard. Really good shooting around him.”
As mentioned before, this is Ohio State’s final nonconference game. Holtmann has said for a couple weeks that it has been a main focus for the team to finish the nonconference schedule strong and enter the Big Ten season with any sort of momentum. Ohio State, ranked No. 46 by KenPom, has an opponent it is vastly superior than to work on any shortcomings it had against the Tar Heels.
“Our turnover percentage would certainly be one,” Holtmann said. “We can continue to improve defensively across the board … The biggest thing is you have a chance to finish the nonconference and feel really good about it. And that’s what’s in front of us here tomorrow.”
If Miami’s past games against high-major opponents are any indication, Ohio State’s 48 percent second-half shooting against North Carolina will carry over to Saturday and redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop will be the difference maker, again, with his size and length.
Ohio State wins 87-63