I give the Lipscomb University men’s basketball team a lot of credit. Coach Scott Sanderson wanted to put together an extremely challenging schedule designed to toughen his team up for conference play. He succeeded.
Of the team’s nine out of conference games, four are on the road against teams from power conferences: Vanderbilt, Ohio State, Cincinnati, and Arizona. Clearly, the Bisons are not backing down when it comes to their level of competition.
“It’s not about who we are playing, but rather getting us ready for conference play,” Sanderson said. “We made our schedule difficult on purpose.”
Playing teams like the Buckeyes should certainly help Lipscomb fine-tune its game, and suffering a handful of losses could be worthwhile if they result in a trip to the NCAA tournament. These matchups will certainly improve the Bisons’ strength of schedule and overall resume, and if they do in fact prepare Lipscomb for a run at the conference title, then Sanderson’s plan will have been brilliant.
Lispcomb is currently projected to finish second in the Atlantic Sun behind defending champion Jacksonville, but with a few breaks the Bisons could very easily take the title themselves. Both teams return four starters from last year, and Jacksoville is coming off of an appearance in the NIT. Lipscomb hopes to earn a post-season berth as well, but would prefer its first-ever trip to the Big Dance. And they think the challenge of playing OSU can help make that a reality.
The Buckeyes need to use this game to work on consistency. In the recently completed 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden, the team went 1-1 against a pair of ranked opponents, but had flawed performances in both games. Against UNC, the Buckeyes’ slow start killed their chances. Their second-half comeback was impressive and showed that the team has the skills to play with the best of the best, but it also highlighted the need to put together 40 good minutes. Against Cal, the Bucks had the opposite experience. A big lead was nearly lost thanks to a late rally by the Bears. While OSU held on for the victory, a cold stretch in the second half let Cal back into the game and could have spelled disaster.
Coach Thad Matta knows exactly what he needs to do, and with back to back home games before a matchup with ACC foe Florida State, he has the opportunity to get the team moving in the right direction.
Ohio State point guard Evan Turner will be seeking his fifth double-double in as many games this season. And while the team takes no pleasure in routing a small program like Lipscomb, style points do matter when it comes to building an impressive body of work. Look for the Bucks to play hard for a full 40 minutes in what should be a relatively easy win in Columbus.