With the opening tip coming about an hour after the football team earned a key Big Ten road victory against Iowa, there was no guarantee that Columbus would even note that the men's basketball team had a game. Early-season non-conference games are notoriously quiet in Value City Arena, and this night's opponent – UNC Wilmington – added little appeal.
If there was a night for six freshmen to believe they have already arrived and sleepwalk through a win against a clearly overmatched foe, this was it. And then they did the exact opposite: they buried the Seahawks from the opening tip.
It is becoming harder and harder not to get taken up in the wave of positive momentum that is surrounding this team. They look every bit the part of early-season contenders for a trip to the Final Four, and they are showing a willingness to focus on the little things – like Wilmington – they will have to handle to get them there.
Like I said, this could easily have been a game where the Buckeyes came out, went through the motions and put up a 20-point win. Instead, we saw the exact opposite. Kudos to them for their preparation.
I think … that if Jordan Sibert can provide bench production like he did Saturday night on a more consistent basis, it will add at least one more win to OSU's column in March.
Matta will cut down on his rotations when it gets later in the season. Every coach does. Through the first two games, there were only two subs I was certain of seeing when the season heats up: Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas. The hope was that a player like Sibert would start to see the light and be able to find a consistent role on the team.
It does not have to be a big one, but you never know when foul trouble will necessitate getting someone like Sibert into the game. For the first two games of the season, he looked to still be finding his way. Against UNC Wilmington, I think he found it.
I remember talking to someone very close to Sibert as he led his team to a state title game during his junior season. He told me to watch how Sibert tries to assimilate into the flow rather than step out and be "the guy" until he absolutely has to. He was absolutely right, and that might be part of Sibert's adjustment process in college.
I think Sibert has been trying not to do too much and let the game come to him, and now it's starting to flow. He looked supremely confident offensively on his contest.
Also, Sibert showed some great defensive awareness on one second-half play. As the man he was guarding cut behind him to try and dunk an alley-oop, Sibert saw the play developing and leaped at just the right time to deny the pass.
It is just one game, but the early returns are looking far more promising than they were a week ago.
I think … that it is a shame Lenzelle Smith suffered his injury when he did, because he has shown early flashes of being a problem for opponents. It has mostly been mop-up duty, but I like the way the freshman has a knack for being around the basket and converting missed shots into opportunities.
He's got a nice handle on the ball and has looked solid in glimpses of action. Think how much further along he would be had he not missed several months after undergoing wrist surgery.