You can be forgiven for getting that excited about this team, because I felt the same way as the second half rolled on against Florida. This blend of experience and youth is showing all the early signs it needs to be a major, major force when the NCAA Tournament rolls around.
Of course, we could discover in time that the Gators had no business being ranked as highly as they were in the early going. Even if that proves to be true, it does not diminish what the Buckeyes were able to accomplish in front of a national television audience.
They were dominant. They were balanced. They were poised. These are not ways you would expect a team with six freshmen on the roster to perform in front of a hostile crowd so early in the season.
An average team would have folded under that kind of pressure, even if the Gators would prove to be overrated as the season went on. This team handled a seven-point first half deficit and responded in kind, putting together a massive second-half run that quieted the crowd and took the Gators out of commission.
That is impressive.
I think … that massive kudos are in order for David Lighty. One game after I felt he looked disinterested, the fifth-year senior put on one of the most dominating performances of his career.
Scoring 26 points is not going to be the norm for Lighty. Most nights, he will just be one of a number of deadly weapons in head coach Thad Matta's arsenal. On this night, he was an unstoppable offensive weapon capable of getting to the rim on nearly every play. I like the fact that he was 6 of 7 from the line, meaning he was getting to the basket and drawing contact.
It is only by bad luck that Lighty is around for his fifth season, but that should turn out to be some seriously good luck for the Buckeyes.
I think … that we got an early look at what Matta's rotation will look like when Big Ten play rolls around, and it might be quite as deep as we thought.
Only two reserves saw any type of significant action against the Gators: freshmen Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft. Craft handled himself extremely well, controlling the tempo of the contest and calmly breaking the Florida press. He has a nifty behind-the-back dribble that was extremely effective and he was able to direct the offense in the first half when William Buford proved to be ill-suited for the task.
Craft also showed that he can hit the open jumper, something that I recall Michael Conley struggling with a bit during his OSU tenure. I'd say that portends well for the Buckeyes this season.
However, Thomas took a step back from his season-opening performance and had just two points on 1 of 5 shooting. I think this might be what we see from the prolific prep scorer this season. His baskets against North Carolina A&T came as the result of being in the right place at the right time, while he struggled to hit open shots against the Gators.
In my mind, Thomas is the new ‘X' factor on this team, replacing Dallas Lauderdale.
As for the rest of the bench, I did not expect to see much of J.D. Weatherspoon and Lenzelle Smith when I thought about the tough parts of the 2010-11 season. I did think Jordan Sibert might be able to assume more of a role, but the early returns there are not great.
There is still plenty – and I mean plenty – of time for these guys to improve and get into the rotation, but right now it appears they are behind the eight-ball.
I think … that it is going to be extremely hard to keep Jared Sullinger in Columbus for more than one season if he plays like this for the entire season. As the first freshman to open his career with back-to-back double-doubles since 1977, the big fella is proving all those analysts right with his early season play.
As a former guard, I appreciate a big man who will kick the ball back out if he does not have a good shot. Sullinger is not afraid to spread the love and he has also shown a number of different post moves in the early going.
My only beef with the freshman continues to be the fact that he has too many shots blocked near the basket. Again, this will likely change as he gets stronger and adapts himself better to the game at this level, but you'd like to see him get to the basket with greater authority.
Still, with that blend of size and skill, the 15 NBA scouts I heard the announcers say were in the arena had to be drooling.