Mailbag: How good is Ohio State?

With the Badgers and Buckeyes facing off in a huge Big Ten matchup, Ohio State's scout editor Kyle Lamb answers your questions about the Buckeyes' ranking, their freshmen and the whereabouts of Greg Oden's birth certificate.

Badger Nation: Talent will let you compete for championships, and sometimes win (UNC a couple of years ago). But talent can be trumped by chemistry and experience. What are OSU fans' sense about the team's inexperience and how is the chemistry?

Kyle Lamb: The chemistry is pretty good right now for Ohio State. They play pretty well together and (most games) it looks like they've been playing together for years. The inexperience didn't appear to be a factor against North Carolina but against Florida it showed and then some. By the season's end, I don't imagine inexperience will be much of a factor given most of those kids have played on the big stage in AAU basketball for four years but you're right, you saw what can happen when inexperience meets a veteran team like Florida.

BN:Do you know when Greg Oden is supposed to be having his cast removed? I swear it has to be coming off soon …

KL: It appears that he's going to be wearing some sort of protective brace for the entire season. However, as the season goes on, he occasionally will be wearing different types of braces with varying degree of protection. Right now, it's a stiffer type of brace that does not allow for much flexibility, but by the end of the year it will likely be downgraded to some custom-fit rubber contraption that allows the proper range of motion to shoot jumpers with his right hand.

BN: What is Thad Matta's record against both ranked teams and Big 10 road games?

KL: So far through two full seasons in the Big Ten plus two games this year, Matta is 8-9 on the road in the Big Ten. Against ranked teams since arriving at Ohio State, I went back and found a 5-6 record against ranked opposition.

BN: Despite Greg Oden's obvious world of talent, their team seems to flow better on offense and maintain motion better when he is on the bench. Do you agree?

KL: At this point in the season, I agree wholeheartedly. Ohio State is still learning to play with his presence on the floor. It's been a difference of night and day as they previously were spreading the floor with four and five guys and either beating their man off the dribble or shooting from outside. They were playing fearless and up-tempo. Now that Oden is in the middle, they've been adjusting to a good combination of inside-outside play. They're slowly turning the corner, but they're not there yet. They run a pro-style offense and there has been too much standing around at times since Oden's debut.

BN: Besides Greg Oden, which one of Ohio State's freshmen has had the most success?

KL: Daequan Cook has averaged over 15 points, six rebounds and shot nearly 55 percent from the field. He's been Ohio State's most consistent scorer this season. Junior college transfer Othello Hunter has been playing like LSU's Tyrus Thomas from last season here recently. He's been Ohio State's biggest surprise of the newcomers, averaging eight points and nearly seven boards a game.

BN: Ohio State is No.6 in the country, yet they haven't beaten a legitimate team and are 0-2 against Top 25 teams. Do you feel that they are deserving of their ranking?

KL: Yes and no. Have they "earned" the lofty No. 6 ranking? No, in my honest opinion, they have not. They did go into Chapel Hill and take it to the Tar Heels before faltering in the last seven-eight minutes, but a "quality loss" doesn't justify such a high ranking. That said, the win against a struggling Illinois team in Champaign was impressive and I do think Ohio State is legitimately one of the top five teams in the country.

BN: Do you think that Ohio State's non-conference schedule has prepared them for the rigors of the Big Ten?

KL: I think so. Playing two top five teams on the road is about as tough as it gets in the non-conference season. I think they had one game (UNC) to show they can compete in a hostile environment and they had another (Florida) to serve as a wake-up call that they still need to vastly improve. It doesn't get much tougher than a trip to Madison, especially against a Wisconsin team that in my opinion, is as good as Bo Ryan has had yet … but Ohio State won't be intimidated with the two road tests they've had.

BN: What is Thad Matta's best quality as a coach?

KL: Energy. His emotion and excitement seem to relate to his players and it also carries over to his recruiting of high school athletes.

BN: How big of a surprise or asset has Mike Conley Jr. been for the Buckeyes this season?

KL: For the people that had seen Conley, especially on a regular basis, he's been nothing of a surprise. But as far as an asset – he's likely the team's MVP to this point in the season. Ohio State is by far a better team when he's on the floor than when he's not. So far this season, he's averaging nearly a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, scoring nine points a game, three rebounds, six assists and nearly three steals – nearly unheard of stats for a true freshman point guard.

BN: Ohio State and Wisconsin are the runaway favorites to win the Big Ten. Other than the Badgers and Buckeyes, which team can you say making a strong push for the conference title?

KL: I'm not yet writing off Illinois, although at 0-2 and all the problems they have with perimeter play, that's not looking very possible. Through this point in the season, I just don't see any other teams capable of winning the title – but I'd say Illinois or Michigan State to finish third.

BN: What player are you most impressed with on Wisconsin's roster and which player are you the least impressed with?

KL: I think Alando Tucker has to be the runaway winner for the guy I'm most impressed with. The guy has toughness and the will to score inside that I think only Tyler Hansbrough can match nationally. I've been least impressed with Marcus Landry thus far, who I expected bigger things from this season.

BN: Besides the two Wisconsin games, which game(s) do you think will be the toughest for the Buckeyes in the Big Ten?

KL: I think Michigan State and Northwestern are the teams that will be toughest for Ohio State after Wisconsin. Michigan State will be up and down this season, but Tom Izzo will have them up for big games. Northwestern, meanwhile, can spread the floor and draw Oden out of the paint – which has been Ohio State's weakness so far this year.


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