Columbus, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - The 11th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes lift the lid on the 2013-14 season with a home game against the Morgan State Bears.
Morgan State put forth a modest effort in 2012-13, going 10-6 in the Mid- Eastern Athletic Conference while finishing the regular season at .500 overall. The Bears made folks stand up and take notice however, by winning three games in the conference tournament before finally falling in the title tilt to North Carolina A&T, 57-54,
Ohio State head coach Thad Matta seemingly has his club competing for the top spot in the Big Ten Conference every year, and this season is no different as the Buckeyes will try to up the ante after posting a 29-8 record last season. They won 13 of their 18 Big Ten bouts, won the conference tournament, and advanced to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio State won the only other meeting with Morgan State by virtue of a 95-74 decision in Columbus on Dec. 27, 1994.
Morgan State welcomes four starters back from last year's club, as the team seeks to climb the MEAC ladder in this, coach Todd Bozeman's eighth year at the helm. The Bears could excel if they stay healthy and catch some breaks, and much of their success will hinge on the play of Justin Black (14.2 ppg), one of the league's top offensive performers. Anthony Hubbard (11.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg) is a gritty player who has the ability to create opportunities for himself, while Ian Chiles (9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.2 bpg) provides some stability in the paint. Blake Bozeman (5.8 ppg, 2.8 apg) lacks scoring punch, but does his best to get his teammates involved in the action as much as possible. The Bears may make some noise in the MEAC this season, but against a team as formidable as Ohio State, they will need to be almost perfect and hope the Buckeyes falter in several areas.
Deshaun Thomas (19.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg) did it all for Ohio State in 2012-13, but his departure means that a guy like Aaron Craft can really shine now. Craft, a senior, is one of the Big Ten's best backcourt performers, particularly at the defensive end, but he will be expected to up the ante this time around after averaging 10.0 ppg as a junior. Craft (172 assists) thrives on setting his teammates up, and the hope is others, notably Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (9.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and perhaps even Shannon Scott (4.9 ppg, 3.8 apg), will throw their hat in the ring with regard to serving as leaders, both on and off the court. In the middle, it's time for the underachieving Amir Williams to step up, but while few question his natural ability, averages of only 3.5 points and 3.9 rebounds in 16.5 minutes per game last season suggest he hasn't been giving it his all on a consistent basis. Sam Thompson is a solid role player who could develop into more of a contributor, and LaQuinton Ross has the talent to produce as yet another weapon in OSU's potent arsenal.