There’s not two more curious teams in the B10.
The Ohio State started the year off looking like world beaters. They won their first 9 games, including wins over Villanova, Cincinnati, and North Carolina. After an early B10 loss to Minnesota they bounced back with a neutral court win against Kentucky.
Then the Buckeyes came crashing down to earth, real hard. They lost four straight and 6 of 7, and has limped through the start of conference play. The one thing that stands out - none of the losses are bad on paper. Their worst loss according to KenPom was their most recent, a 70-57 loss to Wisconsin on the road.
They responded by taking care of Rutgers at home on Wednesday 72-66.
For Purdue, their first string of success - three wins in a row - met a buzzkill in Penn State who came into Mackey Arena and took all the magic out of the building, making every three, and giving Purdue’s offense fits. It was a frustrating home loss for a team that had been untouchable at home against B10 opponents.
Purdue fans should be very familiar with these Buckeyes - it’s still the Wesson show with Kaleb and Andre. Andre is having a terrific year from perimeter, making over 45% of his threes, but he’s still not a natural play maker. He turns the ball over nearly 20% of his possessions and he relies on being smart and finding space in the offense.
Kaleb is more of the mismatch for teams. His big body combines with an all around skill set that can challenge most big men. He’s a good passer, comfortable setting up in the post, and shooting from the perimeter.
Then there’s the point guard, CJ Walker, who Purdue was after on the recruiting trail and nearly had in black and gold. A quick, in and out point guard, that prods and pokes, but hasn’t found a steady jump shot and turns the ball over a lot.
Purdue’s path for success almost certainly includes forcing the Buckeyes into a bunch of turnovers and taking the crowd out of it early.
But it will also come down to Ohio St.’s defense which has a strange effectiveness inside the arc. They defend 2 pointers at 41.4% clip, the fourth best rate in the country. They don’t do this with superior rim protection, or a leaping center, but Wesson and Kyle Young are bullies and they don’t leave the paint. Their wings are long, and Chris Holtmann has them playing a disciplined and strict defense.
For Purdue, their big men should challenge Young and Wesson. Haarms is taller than both, quicker, and can stretch the floor. Williams is much more body aligned and play similar to Young and Wesson - he wants to bang down low. The only thing is, he’s better than both of them when he’s on.
Purdue matches up well with the Buckeyes in most places - Eastern, after a poor start to the season, has played the best basketball of his career. Hunter continues to improve his shot and Proctor has confidence in his again. Buckeyes don’t have the elite athleticism that has bothered Stefanovic and Purdue’s wings.
This will be the opposite script as Purdue’s game against Penn St.. They won’t be at home against a team they don’t match up well against. Instead, they’ll be on the road against a team they should be able to challenge and put pressure on with their length and athleticism, and use their two bigs to challenge Wesson and possibly get him into foul trouble.
But as it’s come down to most the year, it’ll probably all depend on if Purdue can make their open shots.