The previous four contests have resulted in four Ohio State wins by an average of over 35 points, so the action on the court may not be too compelling, but the exhibition will begin to provide answers about a team filled with unknowns.
“I think things can come more into view for me in terms of expectations as we get there,” coach Thad Matta said when addressing the media Friday. “Right now things have been very competitive, it’s been for the most part we’ve liked the direction we’ve gone in. As I always remind them at the end of practice is I can only play five of you at a time, that’s what the rules state, so doing your job and doing it effectively is going to be huge for us.”
Exactly which five that will be to start the game was still uncertain as of Friday. Matta said he entered Thursday’s practice thinking he knew who he would start against the Cavaliers, but he finally saw some things in scrimmage portion that day that made him rethink things and forcedhim to reevaluate after the Friday practice.
Regardless of who is out there, the Buckeyes will have a different look than they did last year. Not just because they lost their three leading scorers from that team, but because the team has changed up what they do on both sides of the ball.
Offensively the biggest difference will be the tempo.
“We just really want to push the ball now,” senior point guard Shannon Scott said. “We know a lot of times last year we did push the ball, but there were times that we just walked the ball up the court, kind of stagnant, kind of robotic the way we played. Now we just want to keep going and be in attack mode at all times.”
Sam Thompson added that the pace will extend to times the Buckeyes are forced into their half-court offense. Running their ball-screen motion offense last year, the ball was prone to stick in one players hands for too long, Thompson said. That shouldn’t be the case this season.
“This year there’s a lot more ball movement, a lot more player movement,” the senior forward said. “I think the ball will be moving from side to side much more than it did last year.”
Defensively the team is expected to employ more 2-3 zone, though Matta was unsure whether the team would end up playing more zone or man-to-man.
The Buckeyes will be showcasing a lot of their differences from last year’s team against Walsh. Thompson is just happy to be playing someone in a different uniform.
“We’re a little bit tired of running into each other, running into each other’s screens, fighting with each other for rebounds and loose balls and stuff,” he said. “It will be a good test to see where we are on Sunday and it will also be fun to play against somebody who doesn’t know every play we run.”