Ohio State entered the 2015-16 season with perhaps more question marks than at any time in Thad Matta's previous 11 seasons at the helm. The Buckeyes are breaking in plenty of new players and using lineups that we haven't seen before after five players departed from last year's team.
The Buckeyes got off to a good start in a 76-54 win over Mount saint Mary's Nov. 15, and while plenty of questions remain about the team, there was plenty to be learned from the first outing of the season. Here are my major takeaways from game one.
Tate's Jumper: One of the few familiar faces from last year's team, Jae'Sean Tate returned to the starting lineup against the Mountaineers after missing the Buckeyes Nov. 8 exhibition against Walsh with a sprained ankle. He showed no ill effects from the injury and showed off the jump shot he's been working on in the offseason, nailing his only two 3-point attempts.
“It felt great, just to have three 3’s last year and come and make two my first game, it definitely boosted my confidence," he said. "I’m still not where I want to be so I got to continue to work, I can’t rest on that.”
As the sophomore said, he hit just three 3's last season. If he can be a consistent threat to hit from range it will do wonders for the Buckeyes offense and round out his game which already features some solid post moves. Tate also had some nice ball-handling in the win as he transitions to more of a wing role with more well-rounded post players this season
Post Movement: Speaking of the post, both Daniel Giddens and Trevor Thompson impressed me in their Ohio State debuts. Thompson will have to work on his foul issues, but both players were active and played to their athleticism. It gives the Buckeyes a dimension they didn't have last season.
“The post guys had one of the biggest challenges today in terms of defense and I thought they did a very nice job of getting up the floor when we wanted them," Matta said. "That is pretty much an exclusively ball screen-type offense. We had to get those guys up the floor.
"Daniel was everywhere. He was showing his chest, helping, getting back to his man and the block he had in transition was an incredible thing. Trevor’s got to understand we’ve had two scrimmages and a game and he’s committed the same foul all three times. At some point, the lights got to flip on and say, ‘I can’t grab a guy.’"
Turnover Trouble: Ohio State turned the ball over 18 times against Mount saint Mary's, with freshman JaQuan Lyle and junior Marc Loving each committing five. Tate said he believes that is the growing pains of a new team, and I largely agree. I think it will be something the Buckeyes get fixed as they get to know one another better.
As far as Lyle, I'm pretty high on him overall. Some of his turnovers came when he made a nice pass to an unsuspecting teammate, which is still his fault but not a bad overall sign. He's a smooth player who is calm and deliberate with his movements. He's not an elite athlete, but he will be a big contributor this season.
Ranking the Freshmen: As for the freshmen generally, I am confident that Lyle and Giddens will be the two biggest contributors among newcomers this season, in that order. Following those two, I think A.J. Harris will be able to give quality minutes off the bench, as he did against the Mountaineers.
Austin Grandstaff looks like a player still learning the offense, and while I think he will develop into a knock-down shooter, his defensive struggles make me skeptical that he will make any significant impact this season. Things could click for him on that end, however, which would give the team another elite shooter.