Ohio State is not only winning despite struggles in their first few games of the season, but they’re also undefeated.
On Wednesday they defeated Jackson State by the final score of 78-47 to reach a 5-0 record and though the Buckeyes have not faced a ranked opponent yet, it’s an uplifting sign compared to last season’s start.
This time last year they were a below .500 (2-3) ball-club heading into their match-up with highly ranked Virginia after taking three straight losses to UT-Arlington, Louisiana Tech and Memphis. This year, so far at least, we’ve seen a different Buckeyes squad.
Despite escaping victorious against Navy and North Carolina Central by a combined 16-point margin and a half time total of seven points, the Buckeyes have mainly played as a Thad Matta coached team you’d expect to watch.
In their first real test against the Providence Friars, they outlasted them by the final score of 72-67 in a game that awakened Buckeye’s lead guard JaQuan Lyle (who had struggled in the previously mentioned games). They defeated Western Carolina and Jackson State by a combined 51 points. I know you’re probably thinking the Buckeyes haven’t faced any top tier competition on their schedule and you’d be right, but this is not your typical Ohio State team.
For one, they were not ranked in the pre-season top 25 and it’d difficult for you to guess how many times a Thad Matta squad wasn’t ranked in the top 25 (before the season) because it doesn’t happen often. Also, remember that they lost four of their five recruits in the 2015 recruiting class, with three of those players being ESPN 100 listed guys. But let’s not dwell on the past.
I’m mentioning these few examples because most of their core players returned and these early results didn’t happen last year. So whether pundits may say things like they’re beating teams they should be defeating or they’re struggling in games they should be dominating, what they have done is shown growth compared to last year.
But, not harping on the past or looking too far in the future, the question for the Buckeyes at this moment is what’s next?
The easy answer is what’s ahead of them on the schedule. After their game against Marshall on Friday a five-day break follows as they’ll look to avenge last year’s nail-biting lose against Virginia next Wednesday in a rematch of the Big Ten / ACC Challenge. Right now, Virginia is ranked as a top 10 team in the country just like last season when they squared off, and it should stay that way heading into next week (even though they’ll have to face Iowa beforehand).
The Buckeyes have seemed to learn the hard lesson that every top conference school learns, which is don’t overlook your opponent, so expect them not to take Marshall lightly. But there’s no way that they haven’t circled that Virginia match-up on the schedule.
With four players averaging double-digit points (with two others very close as well) and players like Lyle and Jae’Sean Tate finding their stride, the Buckeyes are becoming an intriguing team on the rise. Though the easy answer is that the schedule is what’s next for Ohio State, what’s also next is a possibility to be in the top 25 rankings once again. With a quality opponent coming up, the Buckeyes might be able to show us if they’re for real or not early in the 2016-17 season..