Ohio State is off to a 5-0 start and shooting the ball better than fans of the scarlet and grey have seen in a few seasons. Yet despite all of the positives the Buckeyes have shown in the early season, one glaring weakness has been apparent, and is about to get a huge test.
Thad Matta takes his team to the KFC Yum! Center (no, I'm not kidding) to face a Louisville squad that is currently first in the country in rebounding and features a preseason All-America selection in the paint. Ohio State is outrebounding the likes of Sacred Heart and Campbell by a margin of just 6.8 per game, not exactly what a team with three upperclass big men would expect. The trio of Amir Williams, Trey McDonald, and Anthony Lee is only pulling down 13.5 boards per game.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, are leading the country in rebounding, pulling down just short of 49 a game, and feature junior Montrezl Harrell, who surprised many by even coming back to school this year. The Tarboro, North Carolina native racked up twelve double-doubles a season ago, and is currently leading Louisville with 17.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
"Montrezl is everything a first-team All-America should be," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said before the season started. "He's worked at making his game better, and I'm real proud of him."
Where the Buckeyes should be particularly concerned is on the offensive glass. Louisville averages nearly 18 offensive rebounds per game, while Ohio State has actually been beaten on the offensive boards through its first five games.
The Buckeyes haven't had too many offensive rebounds to worry about thus far in the season, sitting at second in the country in field goal percentage, knocking down nearly 57 percent of its shots. But after Friday's subpar performance against James Madison in which the team shot just 41 percent from the floor and gave up several second (and third) chance opportunities to the Dukes, the fire on the boards has to be a concern.
Matta used the word "lackadaisical" a couple of times after the 73-56 win on Friday, and with the same level of effort, the Buckeyes will get run out of the gym against Louisville. In addition to Harrell, the Cardinals feature four other players averaging at least five rebounds per game. Freshman Chinanu Onuaku (8.4 rpg) and redshirt sophomore Mangok Mathiang (7.8 rpg) are two bigs with the size (both are 6'10") to add to Ohio State's challenge.
#14 Ohio State and #5 Louisville tip things off at 9:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday night. The game will be televised on ESPN and the WatchESPN app.