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Next Up - Ohio State

As Duke gets the Buckeyes for the second straight year in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

NCAA Basketball: Phil Knight Legacy-Duke at Oregon State
Nov 24, 2022; Portland, Oregon, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Kyle Filipowski (30) reacts after scoring a three point basket during the second half against the Oregon State Beavers at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Duke won the game 54-51.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Date 11/29 || Time 7:15 || Venue Cameron Indoor Stadium || Video ESPN

Duke gets Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for the second straight year. You’ll recall last year’s tiff in Columbus when the Buckeyes were nothing short of sensational, especially CJ Liddell, who gave the Blue Devils fits.

Ohio State ended up having a sort of average season and the the a bit of the shininess has worn off of coach Chris Holtmann and he’s had a bit of heat over it.

It wasn’t his fault. Ohio State had major injuries. Seth Towns, who Duke had pursued in the portal, missed most of the season as did Justice Sueing (Saul Goodman, you may have competition). There were other injuries throughout the season and the Buckeyes limped to the end with a 1-4 finish, including losing to Penn State in the Big Ten tournament and Loyola of Chicago in the NCAA tournament.

Sueing is back and apparently healthy: he scored 33 against Texas Tech in the Maui Classic and that’s not easy to do against that defense. And he wasn’t bombing from outside either. The 6-6 senior is a problem.

Like Duke, Ohio State had huge losses from last year with nine players leaving, including Kyle Young, Justin Ahrens, Meechie Johnson and Jamari Wheeler. Liddell and Malaki Branham entered the NBA Draft and were taken in the first round.

Holtmann is starting Sueing and 6-8/255 lb. Zed Key, a junior, 6-2 Bruce Thornton, a freshman,6-4 Sean McNeil, a grad student transfer from West Virginia and 6-5 Isaac Likekele, a grad student transfer from Oklahoma State.

The primary bench is 6-6 senior Tanner Holden, a transfer from Wright State, 6-6 freshman Brice Sensabaugh,6-4 freshman Roddy Gayle and 6-11 Felix Okpara, also a freshman. Eugene Brown, a 6-6 junior who played a lot last year, has not played so far after being in the concussion protocol.

Although convention doesn’t always hold, at first glance Ohio State is missing two key elements: size and point guard.

The two guys who are the most natural fit at point would be Likekele and Thornton and both are getting starter minutes. Between them they are averaging 6.2 apg (Likekele is getting 3.5 per game while Thornton racks up 2.7).

Three players average double figures: Sensabaugh at 15.8, Sueing at 14.5 and Key at 12.5.

Key is also the team’s best rebounder (8.5) although several guys rebound fairly well for smaller players.

Ohio State isn’t a great three point shooting team although they’re better at it right now than Duke.

One of Jon Scheyer’s goals is to assemble a team of guys who can shoot well from outside, presumably to open the inside.

So far, not so good: at last check, Duke was shooting under 30 percent from behind the line. In the losses, it falls to 12.5 percent.

Part of this is that some of the younger players are still adjusting to college basketball. Tyrese Proctor is 5-32 so far but clearly he can shoot. He’s just not hitting for whatever reason.

Still, that’s 15.6 percent. Dariq Whitehead is a little better at 21.4 percent but he’s still getting back to himself after a summer foot injury.

Even so, no one is topping 40 percent on threes. Mark Mitchell has done the best at 37.5 percent. Jacob Grandison and Jeremy Roach, two very experienced players, are hitting 33.3 and 32.4 percent respectively.

Duke should have a major advantage size-wise. At 7-1 and 7-0 respectively, Derick Lively and Kyle Filipowski should have some opportunities around the basket. The only real shotblocker OSU has is freshman Okpara, who is getting 1.2 per game.

There’s more than one way to solve a problem though, and Ohio State, like a lot of schools until Duke takes it away by shooting better, could opt to just pack in a zone around the big guys and force Duke to launch from outside.

This team is still developing and it will be very different once Whitehead and Lively are fully integrated into the rotation. You can see both of them doing really interesting things at times. Lively is a shotblocker to be sure but he looks like he’s a really smart passer and he runs the floor beautifully.

And Whitehead hasn’t really unleashed his slashing game too much. He’s been shooting a reasonable amount but hasn’t shot very well. So far he’s hitting 26.7 percent overall and 21.4 percent on threes. He’s a tremendous athlete and has always shot well before. Once he full recovers, you can expect him to again

It’ll be a challenging night, no pun intended. Holtman is the real deal and he will bring his team ready to go. Duke has to match their intensity.

As always, we’ll be adding more links so check back for more later.

Also, DavidBenAkiva has been doing tremendous previews on the boards and a lot of other folks are pitching in too. Highly recommended.