OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
vs. MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES
Carrier Classic - USS Yorktown - Charleston, SC
Tip-off: Friday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Ohio State -7, Total: 137
No. 4 Ohio State and Marquette will open their seasons in a carrier turned naval museum when they tip-off aboard the USS Yorktown in Charleston, SC in the Carrier Classic.
This figures to be a low-scoring game with two defensive-minded coaches who force their players to work hard on the defensive end of the court. And as Buckeyes' conference foe Michigan State can attest to, it's not easy to make shots on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. MSU connected on only 30.6% FG (2-of-20 three-pointers) in last year's Carrier Classic in San Diego. Also, both teams lost significant offensive firepower from last season with Marquette's Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom (35.8 PPG combined), and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger and William Buford (32.0 PPG combined) all having departed.
Can Ohio State win comfortably in Friday's season opener? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. Last season, the StatFox group had a combined 65% ATS (206-110-4) success rate in college basketball Best Bets. StatFox Scott led the way at an amazing 71% ATS (56-23-1) followed closely behind by StatFox Gary (68% ATS), StatFox Brian (62% ATS) and StatFox Dave (60% ATS).
Despite losing its two best players, Marquette still has an experienced backcourt with senior Junior Cadougan (5.4 APG) and junior Vander Blue (8.4 PPG) who are both very capable of assuming some of the scoring load left by Johnson-Odom. The Eagles also added versatile transfer Trent Lockett, who averaged 13.0 PPG and 5.8 RPG at Arizona State. Jamil Wilson should be able to fill Crowder's shoes as a rangy forward who creates mismatches at 6-foot-7 because he can drill it from 20 feet out. Burly, 290-pound PF Davante Gardner and 6-foot-11 C Chris Otule are both healthy after suffering knee injuries and will provide the muscle inside.
The Buckeyes may have lost two stars, but two other great players return in PG Aaron Craft (8.8 PPG, 4.6 APG) and PF Deshaun Thomas (15.9 PPG, 52% FG, 5.4 RPG). Craft is widely considered one of the best floor generals in the country, able to control the pace of the game on offense and disrupt opposing ball-handlers as one of the most highly regarded on-ball defenders (2.5 SPG). Thomas can score from anywhere on the floor and had an outstanding NCAA Tournament, averaging 19.6 PPG and 7.8 RPG in helping lead this Buckeyes team to the Final Four. SG Lenzelle Smith Jr. (6.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG) also had a strong NCAA run with 14.3 PPG in the final three games of the tourney. Smith Jr. made 38% 3-pt FG for the season. But Ohio State does have concerns whether or not C Amir Williams and SF LaQuinton Ross can provide consistent rebounding and interior defense.