As far as preseason business trips go, the Ohio State basketball team couldn’t have picked a better location than the Bahamas.
The Buckeyes took advantage of an NCAA rule that allows college basketball squads to take an international trip once every four years. Along the way, Thad Matta’s bunch received 10 extra practices and dismantled the Bahamas All-Stars, 88-66, and the Providence Storm, 115-63.
They managed to have some fun also, as the OSU Basketball Twitter page pointed out:
While the most important takeaway from the trip may just be the fact that everyone escaped the snorkeling adventure without a shark encounter, there were some interesting on-court developments. They become much clearer when we look at the box scores, via Patrick Maks of Eleven Warriors:
First things first, superstar freshman D’Angelo Russell didn’t play against the Providence Storm because he wasn’t feeling well. There’s no need to panic about any potential injury when it comes to the Buckeyes' prized freshman.
Of more immediate interest is the big-man rotations and production.
Anthony Lee started the first game alongside Amir Williams, and Williams started with returning veteran Trey McDonald in the second. Lee is capable of playing either power forward or center, but he played forward more often at Temple and seems to have a preference for it if his comments were any indication, via Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com:
“I prefer the four, that's what I came here for, but I can play the five if I need to because I've been doing it the last three years. If I had to play the five and the five has to guard me, I'd just be a mismatch.”
Outside of Lee, Williams and McDonald, Dave Bell was also productive, as Ohio State associate athletics director for communications Dan Wallenberg pointed out:
In all, Lee scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the two games, Williams scored 15 points and totaled eight rebounds, McDonald scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and Bell scored six points and grabbed nine rebounds.
What’s more, freshman Jae’Sean Tate, who is capable of filling in at power forward, tallied a double-double against the Providence Storm.
Again, the level of competition was anything but stellar, but the fact that Matta got production from a number of different options down low is encouraging. He can theoretically mix and match Williams, McDonald and Lee because of Lee’s ability to play either center or power forward, and Tate’s presence gives him another option in smaller and more athletic rotations.
The days of watching Williams struggle as the only big man may be in Ohio State’s rear-view mirror.
Another positive sign from the Bahamas trip was the production from Marc Loving.
Loving led the team with 19 points against the Storm, and he grabbed six rebounds for good measure. With the departure of LaQuinton Ross, the Buckeyes are going to need Loving to take significant steps from his freshman to sophomore season as a scorer. We saw flashes of his potential a year ago, but he needs to be much more consistent in his second season.
Matta utilizes smaller lineups with regularity, and Loving is another option as a stretch power forward because of his ability to bang around for rebounds and stretch the floor with a jumper. It was only an exhibition game in the Bahamas, but the 19-point effort should give him some confidence going forward.
Elsewhere, Shannon Scott’s stat lines were encouraging. He scored seven points and dished out seven assists against the All-Stars and scored eight points and tallied eight assists against the Storm.
With no more Aaron Craft, Ohio State and Matta will look toward Scott to provide veteran leadership in the backcourt. His assist totals are more important than his scoring numbers at this point because his main job as the point guard will be to get his talented teammates involved.
Interestingly, Matta forced the members of team to earn their scarlet and gray uniforms before the trip in practice with conditioning, weight room and shooting tests. Scott was among the first players to do so, and discussed as much, via Lesmerises:
I feel like I'm setting the tone and showing players this isn't a joke. We all want to achieve this and somebody needs to step up and make sure everyone can do it.
I kind of had to step up because a lot of these guys had some minor injuries that held guys back. I've been fresh so I've been able to do all my tests and get it over with.
But it kind of shows that we're all new players. We can't go off what we did in years past. We've got to start from the beginning and learn what we've got to do.
Everybody has to earn it the same exact way, and for all we know the freshmen could have got it first and the seniors could have got it last. But being a senior, I know I had to really push myself to set a tone for everybody else.
If Scott continues to set the tone like he has in the preseason, there could be big things in store for the Buckeyes in 2014-15.
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