The basketball preseason is over, and now the real season — that is, the Big Ten season — is beginning. Ohio State plays its first conference game tonight, traveling to Bloomington to play the Indiana Hoosiers.
The Buckeyes are undefeated, 13-0, and are ranked second in national polls. The team clearly has a lot of talent and a lot of promise. The core of the team is four experienced players — David Lighty, Jon Diebler, William Buford, and Dallas Lauderdale — and they have played well so far. Those four players give the Buckeyes firepower from the perimeter, a player who can take the ball to the rack, tough defenders, and a shot blocker. And Ohio State’s freshman class — particularly Jared Sullinger — has made a huge contribution, too. Sullinger appears to be a complete package post player who knows all the post moves, rebounds well, and can dish when he is double-teamed. His classmates Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas also have made their mark and have given Ohio State both depth and a spark off the bench. Coach Thad Matta and his assistants have worked hard to experiment with lineups, spread playing time among the talent, and get the team to play tough defense, which will be crucial during Big Ten crunch time.
The big question for this team, right now, is “how good are they”? The Buckeyes really haven’t been tested yet, and while they have played some quality teams — Florida, Florida State, and South Carolina among them — they have not played a down-to-the-wire game yet. That will happen in the Big Ten, and the jury is still out on how the team will handle the pressure. In the meantime, the Buckeyes will need to take it one game at a time. They cannot afford to stumble on the road against a team like Indiana, which has struggled and should have difficulty matching up against the Buckeyes.