When the Ohio State men’s basketball team returns to the court, it will be after nearly eight months of dwelling on a one-point loss.
“Last season didn’t end the way we wanted it to, and that’s something we’ve had in the back of our mind throughout the summer and leading up to today,” senior center Amir Williams said Wednesday.
The Buckeyes’ 2013-14 season ended with a round of 64 exit in the NCAA Tournament when they fell to Dayton, 60-59, on March 20. That early exit capped a season in which OSU lost 10 times, marking its first double-digit loss season since 2008-09.
But even with that loss in the back of their minds, the Buckeyes are more focused on improving throughout the season ahead, sophomore forward Marc Loving said.
“Last season obviously didn’t end how we wanted it to, but we have a fresh group of guys coming in that have a lot to learn,” Loving said Wednesday. “We’ve practiced a lot of scenarios, but as the season will go on, they’ll gain a lot of game experience.”
The new-look OSU roster features four true freshmen, one redshirt-freshman and one redshirt-senior playing in their first seasons for the Buckeyes. That group is set to take the place of a senior class that won more than 100 games over four seasons.
As the much less experienced Buckeyes look to start their own legacy, the first test is set to come against the University of Massachusetts-Lowell on Friday.
Loving said he and his teammates are “very excited to get the season going,” and added the Buckeyes are happy to have a crack at someone other than themselves.
“We’re looking forward to getting out and playing against some different guys, because we’ve been going up against each other for a pretty long time,” Loving said. “Getting out there, executing and seeing how we measure up against a different group of guys.”
While the majority of what he’s seen from his team so far this season has come in practice, OSU coach Thad Matta has had one chance to see how his young roster responds when the lights go on at the Schottenstein Center.
The Buckeyes played Walsh in an exhibition matchup on Sunday, and won, 77-37. Despite the 40-point victory, Matta said he still saw a lot of room for improvement when looking back at the film.
“We really dissected the film probably more than we have for an exhibition game,” Matta said Wednesday. “Tried to point out the little details that maybe we didn’t do as well as we needed to and still were successful.”
Even with the stretches of success, Matta said he wanted to stress to his team that the weak points that worked against Walsh won’t necessarily work when the regular season rolls around.
“Saying this isn’t going to work Friday, we’ve got to be sharper,” he said.
While OSU had a chance to watch film of itself, Williams said the Buckeyes’ knowledge of their next opponent has come mainly through word of mouth.
“We haven’t watched film on ‘em just yet, but from what we’ve heard, they change defenses a lot,” Williams said of UMass-Lowell. “They’re a team that likes to speed you up, and you just gotta take care of the ball offensively. And just make extra effort plays on defense.”
Matta said any film he has seen of the River Hawks came from last season, which he conceded is “a little bit scary.”
“Because you’re approaching it … and they could be doing something completely different,” Matta said. “We’ve got no film from this year on them, so when they roll in, they could be two inches taller than they say they are, they could be two inches shorter. We don’t know the answer to that.”
Since they don’t know what to expect from the River Hawks — who finished 10-18 last season — the Buckeyes might have to rely on simply making sure they are ready to control what they can control.
Matta said OSU is aiming to simply take care of its own business, and be ready for whatever UMass-Lowell ends up coming out with on Friday.
“The huge focus for us going into today’s practice, tomorrow’s practice, yesterday’s practice is, ‘Hey, let’s dot our i’s and cross our t’s and make sure we’re ready to play,’” he said. “Whatever they throw at us, we’ll know what’s coming.”
Tipoff at the Schottenstein Center is scheduled for 7 p.m.