Cody Cousino / Lantern photographer
After beating Florida State on Tuesday 58-44, the No. 2 Ohio State men’s basketball team finds itself 6-0.
Beating the Seminoles gave the Buckeyes a second impressive victory in Florida. OSU pummeled the then-No. 9 Florida Gators in Gainesville, 93-75, on Nov.16.
With four returning starters from last season’s run to the Sweet 16 and one of the most highly touted freshman classes in the country, the Buckeyes will expect to keep winning. But how long can it last?
Despite its unblemished record, the team’s play is not without flaws, the most significant being inconsistent rebounding. And that’s with two starting post players, senior Dallas Lauderdale and freshman Jared Sullinger, who are 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9, respectively.
OSU is a dismal 93rd in the country with 38.7 rebounds per game. OSU managed only 17 boards against the Gators, the only ranked opponent the team has played.
“We’re not going after the ball like we should, and a lot of that is my fault,” Sullinger said after the Buckeyes beat Miami (Ohio) on Friday.
The role of another freshman, point guard Aaron Craft, will also have a substantial effect on the season.
Craft, though not a starter on the depth chart, is fifth on the team in minutes. His ability to handle pressure will go far in determining how long the Buckeyes can keep a zero in the loss column.
“I’ve been extremely pleased with what Aaron had brought to the table,” coach Thad Matta said after Friday’s win. “He’s actually surprised me, just his understanding, his savvy.”
With a freshman at point, expect teams to try to disrupt OSU with a zone press defense. That method proved effective for FSU and gave OSU problems against Morehead State on Nov. 23.
“We were pathetic tonight at drawing something up in a timeout, going out, and then guys couldn’t see it through,” Matta said after the game against Morehead. “Those are the things you’ve got to get better at.”
That type of play has led to 13 turnovers per game, compared to 11 per game last season.
“That’s really unacceptable for us to turn it over and to keep making the same turnovers over and over again,” senior Jon Diebler said after the Miami game.
Quality teams take advantage of teams that are sloppy with the ball. The Buckeyes, however, play far from a quality schedule.
Before entering Big Ten Conference play Dec. 31, the Buckeyes will face one team now above .500 — 5-1 South Carolina — whom OSU will play in Columbus. The team plays Indiana and Iowa on the road to start league play. Those teams finished ninth and 10th in the conference last season, respectively.
OSU could be 14-0 when the No. 15 Minnesota Golden Gophers come to Columbus on Jan. 9.
The Bucks’ next challenge will be on the road against No. 20 Illinois, which they follow with a home contest against No. 18 Purdue on Jan. 25.
If they come through those contests with a clean slate, the Buckeyes would be 21-0.
The last team to play a perfect season was the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers, with a 32-0 record. The Buckeyes will likely not match that feat, but the zero in the loss column might hang around for a while.