Preview & Prediction: By Evan Dorey
-- Evan Dorey's game previews & rankings are based on Elo Ratings. Elo Ratings are fairly simple, all teams are assigned an initial number of points, which is the same for all teams, eliminating preseason bias. Then, as the season progresses, when a team wins it gains points, and when it loses it drops points. The amount of points that are gained or lost depend on the level of the opponent (beating a cupcake gets you little, beating #1 will be a big increase), the scoring margin of the game (which is capped), and the game’s location. To take a look at Evan's College Basketball Elo Ratings, visit his website or blog where he discusses the rankings along with other statistical observations about big games and interesting teams.
With the Big Ten hoping for a better showing in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge then they’ve had in previous seasons, an important game to avoid a major blowout would be getting a win from one of their three undefeated teams, #69 Ohio St. (3-0), who travel to Florida to face #74 Miami (FL) (4-1).
Ohio State has still only played three games, making them one of the least active teams in the country. Also, one of those games was a pathetic offensive showing from Samford, who shot 19% en route to scoring 22 points. In the entire game. They also had a close game with a less than impressive Bowling Green team, so we don’t really have much of a feeling for them yet. Miami has a much more robust schedule, having lost to Connecticut in the Virgin Islands, but putting up some good wins over well-regarded non-power conference teams in Southern Miss and San Diego.
The problem with the Samford game is that it really colors Ohio St.’s defensive statistics, to the point where they look like the nation’s preeminent defensive team. I think they’ll end up being a good defensive team, as they have been each of the last 4 years, but they’re not a dominant defensive unit either. Still, we can look at the areas where they have been relatively weaker or stronger. The Buckeyes have been stronger defending the inside than the outside, but despite this they have not been spectacular on the defensive glass. They also don’t force a ton of turnovers, which is not really surprising considering Thad Matta’s relatively slow-paced approach to the game. One of the areas where they have been very good in all three games is not committing fouls, and if they can combine this with continued interior strength, it would be a good sign for the rest of the season. Countering the Ohio St. defense, Miami has been a good offensive team, though not through what you’d consider the main part of offense, shooting. The Hurricanes’ shooting numbers are merely average, but they turn the ball over rarely and do well on the offensive boards, so their possession advantage tends to cover for their shooting.
Offensively, Ohio St. hasn’t been that great considering their level of competition, but one area where they have been solid is inside scoring. However, the Buckeyes take most of their shots from behind the arc, where they haven’t been great. Further compounding this problem is the Hurricane’s defensive play, which has so far been very successful in stopping threes from being made. Ohio St. also doesn’t crash the offensive glass much, especially given their size and athleticism advantage in the first three games. Miami’s defense is mostly a three-point defense one, but like Ohio St. they also foul quite rarely.
Jack McClinton, the talented Miami guard, is off to a less than stellar start so far this season, though he does have plenty of time to pick up his game. His point average is about the same as previous seasons, but his percentages are already below last season’s without the effect of ACC play, and he is just 5-15 overall, and 2-11 from three, in his last two games. Still, when his three ball is going in, McClinton is a very dangerous scorer who can hang a big number on an opposing team, as he did to UConn with 27 points. Fortunately, junior forward Dwayne Collins has really picked up his play from last season, has been strong on the boards, getting 10 per game and averaging a double-double. Collins has also improved his free throw shooting from 50% last year to nearly 75% so far this year, and if he can keep that up, it will be very beneficial, as he gets to the line quite often. Beyond those two, there are some less statistically distinct parts that could step up as a solid offensive option beside McClinton, but haven’t shown much consistency, including the likes of Brian Asbury, Lance Hurdle and Cyrus McGowan.
B.J. Mullens is winning the most disappointing freshman of the year poll in a romp, and it’s not hard to see why, given his disappointing numbers. Mullens has played only sparingly, so I’m somewhat reluctant to make any major pronouncements yet, but in 49 minutes of play he has 17 points and 7 boards. Not bad, but spread over three games it’s certainly not what was expected. And just 10 field goal attempts for him in these three appearances is also disappointing. Maybe someone who has had a chance to see him play can let me know below if it’s a matter of him being a raw prospect, or if it’s more about Thad Matta’s usage of him. It’s very puzzling to me to see him play so little, especially when I haven’t heard anything about injury concerns. Two guys who have done the job for the Buckeyes are sophomores, Evan Turner and Jon Diebler. Both are averaging double-digits in scoring, and are shooting quite well, with the 6-7 Turner focusing on getting points inside, while the 6-6 Diebler has shot well from three. Turner has also been effective rebounding, and has been good at the line, though in relatively few attempts. Another forward to watch is Dallas Lauderdale, another sophomore who is an inside focused player. He’s had at least 3 blocks in each game so far, and looks like he can really cause some defensive havoc against Miami.
Ohio St.’s Samford game skews the numbers so far that it’s hard to really get a sense for them. However, I will say that given Miami’s home court advantage, and the edge in experience from a senior and junior laden roster, the Hurricanes will take a high single-digit win. However, B.J. Mullens is a major question mark for me. If he indeed possesses the ability to take over a game this early in his career, he could turn the game the Buckeyes’ way in a hurry. Barring that, I just don’t see a young team playing it’s first road game of the year, having not looked that great against their one decent opponent, coming in and beating a solid if not spectacular Miami team.
Winner: Miami (FL) Margin: 5-9
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About Evan Dorey
Evan Dorey - Game Previews
A recent university graduate from Markham, Ontario, who loves analyzing the statistics of sports in general, and college basketball in particular.