After the cancellation of their highly- anticipated season opener on Friday, the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will officially tip off their campaign this afternoon when they host Albany Great Danes at Value City Arena.
Albany's season did get started on Friday night, and it was able to pull off an impressive 69-66 home win versus Duquesne. The last time the Great Danes began a season 1-0 was 2006-07, which incidentally was the last time they won the American East Conference and qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio State was set to take on Marquette outdoors on Friday aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, but the game was canceled due to condensation on the court. The game is not expected to be made up.
These two programs are meeting for the first time. Ohio State has a 4-1 record all-time against teams from the America East Conference.
Even though Albany lost its top scorer Gerardo Suero (21.5 ppg) in the offseason, it did not skip a beat in its opening win. The Great Danes shot 45.9 percent (28-of-61) from the floor and drained seven three-pointers, while holding Duquesne to under 38 percent field goal efficiency. John Puk made just four starts last season and averaged a mere 2.2 ppg, but he shined in a feature role on Friday, going 7-of-9 from the field for 14 points, including a dunk with 47 second left to put the game out of reach. He also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. Mike Black is the most experienced scorer remaining from last year's squad (13.4 ppg), and although he shot just 6-of-15 from the floor in the opener, he had a team-high 15 points and also dished out four assists. Sam Rowley provided a big boost from off the bench, recording 11 points and seven rebounds.
Thad Matta's Ohio State squad is coming off a fantastic year in which it won a share of the Big Ten Title and made a run all the way to the Final Four, and although it lost perhaps its most important piece in the offseason when Jared Sullinger declared for the NBA, it still boasts some of the best returning talent in the nation. Aaron Craft (8.8 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2.5 spg) may not be a dynamic playmaker at the offensive end, but his tenacious and unrelenting style of play has earned him a reputation as the one of the country's best defensive players. Deshaun Thomas (15.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg) joined Craft on the All- Big Ten team a year ago and figures to be the team's primary scorer this season. Although their roles were limited in 2011-12, Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (6.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Evan Ravenel (3.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg) were productive in spurts and both will be asked to do much more this time around. While LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams combined to play less than 11 minutes per game last season, both have been inserted into the starting lineup and are out to prove that the frontcourt isn't nearly as thin as many pundits fear.