North Carolina A&T (0-0) at (4) Ohio State (0-0)
Friday, November 12th, 7:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Value City Arena (19,049) -- Columbus, Ohio. Television: ESPN360.com. Home Record: NC A&T 0-0, Ohio St. 0-0. Away Record: NC A&T 0-0, Ohio St. 0-0. Neutral Record: NC A&T 0-0, Ohio St. 0-0. Conference Record: NC A&T 0-0, Ohio St. 0-0. Series Record: Ohio State leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes welcome the Aggies of North Carolina A&T to Columbus for tonight's 2010-11 season opener.
North Carolina A&T is led by Jerry Eaves, and the coach is hoping for a much better time of it this year than last when his Aggies lost 22 games. The team had won at least 15 games in each of the previous two seasons, and the hope is that the return of some key players along with a few lucky breaks will allow NC A&T to climb up the MEAC ladder this year.
At the other end of the spectrum lie the Ohio State Buckeyes, one of the top teams in not only the Big Ten Conference, but the nation as well. Coach Thad Matta is fortunate to have a slew of returning talent in place, despite losing the 2009-10 Big Ten Player of the Year in Evan Turner. OSU is expected to compete with Michigan State, Purdue and Illinois for the top spot in the conference this year, and hopes to give Matta his seventh victory in as many season openers at the school tonight. The Buckeyes are 89-18 in home openers all-time.
Ohio State won the only other meeting between these two schools on the hardwood, taking a 93-58 decision from the Aggies back in January of 1994. The Buckeyes are a perfect 14-0 all-time against teams from the MEAC.
Small strides are expected by North Carolina A&T this season, and the key to any success the team achieves will likely hinge on the play of senior forward Thomas Coleman. Coleman led the team in scoring and rebounding in 2009-10, and he was also a defensive force as evidenced by the fact that he led the MEAC in blocked shots. While Coleman is the Aggies' go-to guy in the paint, Nic Simpson will be the top gun in the backcourt. Simpson is a dangerous shooting guard who brings leadership and a non-stop motor to the court. Setting up Coleman and Simpson will be Marc Hill. Hill was a reserve last year, but still averaged 2.1 assists per matchup. Now as a starter, the guard will have one simple job, and that is to get the ball to NC A&T's big two as often as possible.
It must be nice to lose the cornerstone to your team and still have the talent in place to challenge for the top spot in a league as tough as the Big Ten. With Turner now cashing checks in the NBA, coach Matta will rely on four returning starters and a recruiting class considered one of the best in the country to keep the Buckeyes atop the conference. Junior guard William Buford (14.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg) will be expected to fill the role of go-to guy, but Matta will also count on significant contributions from players like senior guard Jon Diebler (13.0 ppg) and senior swingman David Lighty (12.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.0 apg). Add to the mix a serviceable guy like senior Dallas Lauderdale (6.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and the Buckeyes should certainly win more than their share of games. And that's before you consider the expectations heaped on the talented crop of newcomers, led by local product Jared Sullinger. At 6-8 and 280 pounds, Sullinger has the size and skill to convert at the offensive end, while altering the opposition's game plan at the defensive end.
This one should be over by halftime as Ohio State is head and shoulder above NC A&T in terms of talent, depth, coaching and just about everything else you can think of.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 89, North Carolina A&T 57
11/12 11:01:41 ET
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