The defense played by the two opponents that the Ohio State men’s basketball team will face during its five-day stay in the Bahamas this week probably won’t be the caliber the Buckeyes will see in the Big Ten.
Even left open, though, they can start to answer the biggest question about them entering the 2014-15 season: Will they shoot better than they did last season?
None of coach Thad Matta’s previous nine teams at Ohio State shot as poorly as his 10th did: 45 percent from the field overall, and 32.4 percent from behind the three-point arc. The Buckeyes averaged just under 70 points per game.
But Matta said yesterday that he didn’t do much to change his players’ shooting regimen during the offseason.
“Went to church a lot,” he said with a smile, seeking divine intervention.
What he and his assistant coaches did do, he said, was try to impress upon the players an attention to detail he thinks has been lacking for a couple of years.
“I don’t think the preparation and the seriousness of each shot was where it needed to be,” Matta said. “It’s a focus. It’s a concentration.”
He implied that some players seem to value style over substance when it comes to shooting. He mentioned a habit of players kicking their legs out in front of them on jump shots.
“I think sometimes guys think people are looking at them (when they shoot). I’m trying to explain to them they’re watching to see where the ball goes,” he said. “They don’t care what you look like when you shoot it. All eyes are going to see if you make the shot or not, not what you do with your legs or your hands or whatever afterward.
“Those are the things we’ve tried to get corrected.”
The team will fly to Nassau on a chartered jet this morning. The 72-person travel party will include former players Michael Redd, Mike Conley Jr., Evan Turner, Jon Diebler and Ron Stokes.
The NCAA permits teams to take trips to foreign countries or territories once every four years. The Buckeyes’ last such trip was in 2009, when they played three games in Windsor, Ontario.
“We waited a year (longer to go again) because we knew we’d have a big incoming (recruiting) class,” Matta said. Seven players — four freshmen, two transfers and a redshirt freshman — did not play for Ohio State last season.
One of the transfers, 6-foot-11 sophomore Trevor Thompson, will not make the trip because the NCAA is still considering his appeal for immediate eligibility this season.
One of the freshmen, Jae’Sean Tate of Pickerington Central, might play little, if at all, because he was medically cleared only late last week to resume practice. He had shoulder surgery in February.
Two of the newcomers, freshman guard D’Angelo Russell and senior forward Anthony Lee, a transfer from Temple, could be in the starting lineup with Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson and Amir Williams when the Buckeyes play their first game on Thursday night in Nassau. They also play Friday night.