So the time has come for the early season showdown pitting Wisconsin against the poison nuts of Ohio A&M and their one-year wonders. Actually, that's not fair. Ohio State has several talented players that aren't freshman. Othello Hunter, a junior juco transfer, has been a very effective big man off the bench. Jamar Butler, their starting point guard last season, is a fine three-point shooter. Ron Lewis, a senior, is a versatile two-guard. Ivan Harris, also a senior, is a fine outside shooter at the three. Then there's the freshman triumverate of Oden, Cook, and Conley. Conley is the classic, "I can pass and get to the hole but can't really hit jump shots yet" point guard--he's currently leading the Big Ten in assists. Cook is awesome-- a great defensive rebounder, hitting half of his 3s, very athletic. He's averaging 15 points a game, off the bench. He should (I hope) be gone to the league by next year, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars as a starting two guard. If it wasn't for the next guy he'd be freshman of the year, hands down. Finally, there's the all-seeing Oden, the 18-year-old who above the neck looks like a divorced, 42-year-old bus driver, who's depressed about his child support payments. Unfortunately, below the neck he's a sick seven foot defensive presence with athleticism to spare. With one still recovering hand, his offensive game is limited to free throws, dunks, and close-range left-handed jump hooks, but he is a fine rebounder and leads the league in blocks. Yeesh.
Ohio State, despite their talent, is relatively thin. They only have 9 scholarship players. And they're realtively inexperienced-- four freshman and one first-year juco transfer get heavy minutes, and Oden is only on his ninth collegiate game.
So once again, experience and maturity (to some extent, since we do play a fair number of underclassmen, like the Hoft, Landry, Hughes, and Boyanyon, or a guy like Stiemsma who really has only now played in one full season), versus youth and a bit more talent (to some extent again, because OSU does play several upperclassmen, and UW has some very talented players).
As far as specific things to look for, if UW can keep O A&M off the offensive glass, that will be a huge plus. But unless Butch (our best rebounder), plays a lot, we may have serious problems with this, considering how many offensive boards we gave up to an athletic Georgia team. I've also seen several bits about how UW should look to draw Oden out to the perimeter with Butch or the Stiemer or Chappell threatening to shoot, and thus open up the interior for other players, like Alando. That would be positive, I guess. I'm dubious about the ability of any of our post players to score in the low post against Oden, so it'd be good to avoid one-on-one confrontations with him. I also know that we'll have to contain their three-point shooting. Lewis is on a cold streak but Butler, Harris and Cook are all fine long-range bombers. Conley's an excellent penetrator (rated about 30 players above Hughes coming out of high school), and will look to dish to any of their bigs if we give too much help on his drives. (I anticipate Flowers trailing him most of the game). Also, someone will have to deal with Cook. He can score without much help, and I don't know if it's wise to use up A-Tuck's gas on trailing Cook around. Maybe the Hoft or Landry can take the task. Anyway, it's going to be a tough game. Tougher than Pittsburgh, I think. Ohio A&M just waxed the Fibs at home, giving them their worst beat down in Shampoo-Banana since Weber has been there. If we lose any game in Madison this season, this could be it. And it's true that if we lose, there are still a lot of games to play-- this is only the second game of the Big Ten schedule. It's not the season. But goodness, it'd be a big win, and unless Oden is revealed to actually be a 42-year-old bus driver, you know it'll only be harder to beat Ohio A&M when we play them in Columbus in February. Plus, it would be morally rewarding to beat these guys. Bo's built a upperclassmen dominated team that relies on keeping players around for several years, helping them improve and develop into leaders. How much better is Alando now than his freshman year? How much has Butch improved in the past two seasons? Based on this past year, Ohio A&M has signed onto the one-year wonder extravaganza, where you chase the uber-talented shooting stars and hope to ride their magic for a season or two.
I'll go with the method that keeps kids in school. Go Bucky!