Tuesday, November 28, 2006

OSU Men's Basketball Preview

Now that football's out of the way until January 8th, we can safely turn our attention to basketball for a bit. The timing's especially good, since OSU takes on North Carolina in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge tomorrow night.

So, with no further ado, let's take a look at the team. Let's begin with the starters:

Mike Conley - One of the Thad Five, he has been starting at point guard all season, which was something of a surprise to me. I thought he was good, but nowhere near good enough to displace Jamar Butler (which he has only sort of done, as we'll discuss). I must admit, though, that he has exceeded my expectations. He has been distributing the ball very well, averaging 6.3 assists per game even without Greg Oden to feed the ball to in the middle. Even more impressive, he averages 2.9 assists for every turnover, which is good for anyone, and great for a true freshman point guard. He's also averaging 3.2 steals a game. The only negative is that he doesn't have much of an outside shot, going 1-7 on his threes. As the Wonk mentioned, at least he seems to be aware that he doesn't shoot well from outside, since he's only attempted seven threes. He does a good job driving to the basket. He's going to be something special before he's done here.

Jamar Butler - Butler plays shooting guard when Conley's on the floor and point guard when Conley's out. I was going to write here that Butler's taken on more of a scoring role, but the numbers don't exactly back me up there, as he's averaging 8.8 points a game - not exactly a gaudy number. He's still averaging 5.7 assists per game, which is a good number (as is his assists to turnover ratio, 2.1). He's only shooting 36.8% from behind the arc, which (while not terrible) does explain his relative lack of point production, since 82.6% of his shots are threes. Presumably his three point average will creep up toward 40%, and his scoring average will increase accordingly. He's in something of an unusual situation when he's playing with Conley: he's a distributor asked to be a scorer, instead of the other way around. The double role will take some getting used to for him, I expect. It also makes him tough to evaluate: 6 assists is good for a shooting guard, but decent for a point guard, while 9 points is acceptable for a point guard, but not enough for a starting shooting guard. He's an excellent point guard occasionally playing shooting guard, with all the positives and negatives that come along with it.

Ron Lewis - The scorer of the starting five. He's averaging 17 points and five rebounds per game. 59% of his shots are threes, and he hits 47.2% of them, which is good. Last year, his outside shot was the weak part of his game, offensively, and he seems to have worked on it. He's been asked to shoulder more of the scoring load, and he's handled it with no problem. The only question mark I have about him is his defensive ability. I don't mean to say that he isn't a good defender, just that I don't know if he is or not. I can't say I'm a great evaluator of defensive basketball skills, and the team as a whole hasn't been tested all season. Out of all the starters, he's the one I'm least worried about on a nightly basis. His job is to score, and you can count on him to get it done. If the three is falling, he's not afraid to shoot. If it's not, he's not afraid to drive.

David Lighty - Another of the Thad Five, he's considered the defensive stopper of the starters, if not the team, which is another way to say "his contribution is difficult to quantify." His numbers are alright (8.3/3.2/1.5), but not great. And, like I said, I can't tell you if he's been that great on defense or not. But he's still starting and getting plenty of playing time, so apparently Thad Matta's satisfied with his performance. And since Thad's the one getting the big bucks to know what's what basketball-wise, I'll defer to his judgement.

Othello Hunter - The least-heralded of the Thad Five, and a pleasant surprise so far. He's averaging 7.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. You add in the 1.8 blocks per game and you have a solid interior player. He's no Terence Dials, but he's not being asked to score like Dials was last year. All he has to do is be a solid role player, and he's done that and more. He rebounds well, and he's a capable scorer. He'll complement whatshisname nicely when he returns (arrives?).

Daequan Cook - Cook is the best scorer on the team, and he may be the best player on this team under seven feet tall. He leads the team in points (17.8) and is second in rebounds (7.2). He's hitting 48% of his threes, though only 33.8% of his shots are threes. He also throws in 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game. My usual note about defensive ability applies, but from what we've seen so far, he's the real deal. Everyone's worried about Greg Oden leaving at the end of the year, but by season's end, we may be just as worried about Cook leaving.

Ivan Harris - Ivan Harris is a shooter, plain and simple. If the shots are falling, he puts up a lot of points. If they aren't, he's still shooting, which is not a good thing. Fortunately, the shots have been falling for most of the season. He's third on the team at 11.3 ppg, and he's hitting on 46.4% of his threes. I have to think a guy like Harris would drive a coach crazy. When he gets the ball, there's a good chance he's shooting, regardless of whether his shots are falling, how much time is left on the shot clock, if he's open or not, or if he's even on the appropriate side of half court. But you don't want to tell him to stop, because if a guy is making almost half of his threes, he can put up points in a hurry. Here's hoping he keeps hitting at this pace all season.

Matt Terwilliger - Most of the time, you know what to expect from Twiggy. He's a decent big man, but not spectacular. He seldom does something really impressive, but he doesn't do much wrong, either, which is what you want to see from a backup big man. He's averaging 5.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game, which isn't bad for a backup, and he's hit 61.9% of his shots, though he's only had 21 attempts. Considering he's not playing that much less than Othello Hunter, though, I'd like to see more production from him. I am still willing to lead his fan club, however, for two reasons: he's the only person on the team that's perfect from behind the arc (one for one), and he had a really awesome dunk against Loyola (which I still need video of, incidentally). If he can occasionally display unexpected awesomeness like that, he'll be okay in my book.

Greg Oden - He's done a great job of wearing street clothes thus far, though I question his decision to accessorize with a towel. As for actual basketball-related skills? He grades incomplete thus far, but I'm hoping awesomeness is forthcoming.


The Penalty Kill said...

Dude! Well done. As a basketball novice, I'll be referring back to this.

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