Vicious Electronic Questioning: Matt Sussman On OHIO

Submitted by Brian on March 13th, 2012 at 1:36 PM


I hit up Hustle Belt's Matt Sussman to enquire about the OHIO Bobcats. Matt's a BGSU man himself but has taken in scads of MAC basketball this year. Hit his site Hustle Belt or follow him on twitter. Curling tweets!

Matt was also good enough to clarify the origin of Ohio being OHIO: "if you gander at you'll see the all caps damn near everywhere. Just doing what they want, to the extreme." The Mountain Dew of schools. Still, they annihilated GT.

brady-hoke-epic-double-pointSo... how mad is OHIO about Ohio State being called "Ohio" by Brady Hoke and now everyone affiliated with the university? Quantify their lust for revenge in points per game.

It's a terrible strain on OHIO football fans to get mentally prepared for, say, Kent State then suddenly hear in the news that they might be playing Michigan, spend $50 on a one-game ticket, watch film on Denard then finally realize what Brady Hoke is doing. All this money adds up especially when compounded with student loans and translates directly into 4.6 points per basketball contest.

There are a few things that leap off the page when you hit up OHIO's Kenpom sheet:

1) Turnovers forced. The Bobcats are second nationally. DJ Cooper has an Aaron Craft-like steal percentage. Can he give Trey Burke as much trouble as Craft, or is he more of a high-risk, high-reward type of guy? Do they use weird zones or is this just a man to man D that gets into passing lanes really well?

Coop (the kids call him Coop) is kind of a risk-taker and they'll go between zone and man. Really I think the entire team is so solid defensively that they can allow Cooper (sportswriters call him Cooper) to really frustrate his man. 

2) Three-point defense. Pomeroy has dedicated a series of posts this fall to the idea that three point D is basically luck and that the real number to look at is the number of threes conceded. The Bobcats are great at the former (19th nationally, 30%) and not good at the latter (36% of opponent shots are from three, 261st). Not to denigrate the MAC, but is this a league with a lot of hopeless late-clock chucks?

Well, four of the five first team All-MACers were power forwards, so ... maybe kinda. (The fifth was DJ Cooper, FWIW.) Couple theories on this: the one you mentioned, or that their interior defense is better than advertised so all they have left is to shoot the three. I can think of one "chucker" in the MAC and he plays for Buffalo, a team they beat three times despite having two outstanding forwards and a better seed in the MAC Tournament.

3) Speaking of a lot of hopeless late-clock chucks, if you click the conference toggle for the Bobcats Kenpom tells you they're dead last at shooting threes (barely over 30%) and take a ton (38%). These guys are just going to shoot over guys without even trying to find an open shot a lot, right?

Is this another question about DJ Cooper? Because yes. I think the ghost of Tommy Freeman does inhabit the occasional Bobcat from time to time. The only one who usually makes them is Clark Kellogg's son Nick, and if CBS wants to run that storyline into the ground they'll find a way. And yes, they are prone to going three-happy, and risk-taking in general on offense. Oh, that can sometimes have hilarious results.

As far as individual matchups go, it looks like OHIO is actually bigger than Michigan. M rotates Evan Smotrycz and Jordan Morgan at the five and will have both on the floor for a few minutes per game; it looks like Ohio has a 6'8" two-headed center and an actual power forward named Ivo Baltic. How much of a post force is he? Can Zack Novak reasonably match up against him?

Anytime I see Baltic play, he has some nice quick moves whether it's to the basket or to separate for a 10- to 15-footer. He's a reliable 4 but I wouldn't call him one of the tops in the MAC ... just one of the many sound interior players along with Reggie Keely and Jon Smith.

OU-KSU-15[1]DJ Cooper (right) has a monster assist rate, draws a ton of fouls, shoots well from the line... and is pretty horrible at all other shots. Poor man's Lewis Jackson: fair comparison? What does he have to do to make Michigan worry?

The team is nothing without him but he can't be everything. When he stays as a true point guard he's at his best. He can score 20 points as long as he lets Baltic and Keely and Kellogg and Offutt also score 10 or 15 points. If those other guys are getting into position and he can pass to them regularly, then he's going to put Michigan in a world of hurt.

While he can sometimes get the big shot, he's not particularly known for it. Dangle that carrot in his face that the game depends on his very next shot with 12 minutes to go and that may be the key to his undoing.

Is there anything in what Ohio does that seems likely to give an undersized, outside-shooting-dependent, shallow Big Ten team issues?

You gave away the answer already! Three-point defense. Take Northern Iowa for example. Big-time reliant on the 3-point shooting, not a lot of inside size. OHIO's guards contested lots of threes, rebounded well, and they put UNI away by several points on the road. It was a big win at the time that looks progressively worse with age, but that's basically the blueprint. Strong guard defense, get everybody involved on offense.


Two years ago OHIO took down three-seeded Georgetown by 14, with Cooper featuring. Anything other than a coaching talking point to be taken from that? Repeatable due to scheme and talent?

Keely got some points, Baltic had a cameo appearance, but other than Cooper's great game and John Groce being present and clapping and stomping I'm not putting much stock into that anomaly. Let's remember that OHIO was a NINE seed in the MAC tournament that year. They were about as inconsistently hot that year as a Hot Pocket. It's been two years since the Georgetown upset and I still can't figure out how it happened other than to say it was just the best two-week stretch of Armon Bassett's life and maybe he was bitten by a radioactive basketball.

On an upset alert scale ranging from "Captain Renault is shocked that Kansas underperformed its seed" to "Sixteen seed takes down one," how would you rate this 4-13 matchup?

Sir Lancelot, played by D.J. Cooper, single-handedly storming the castle where a wedding is being held, but never gaining ground. Like many other 4-13s: can happen, might happen, probably won't happen, not willing to wager money it won't happen.

MAC rivals have started calling the Bobcats "Ohio State," right?

That's not really fair to a team that will actually travel to a MAC school for a game.

I guess they'll have to start calling them Michigan State, then. Thanks again to Matt. Hustle Belt, yo.



March 13th, 2012 at 1:54 PM ^

I 100% understand that Michigan relies heavily on the three, but I think hammering this mantra is a narrow way to focus on the Michigan offense. I do not have the stats on this, but anecdotally I think Michigan turns into a three machine when they are outmatched physically (size and athleticism). Unfortunately, this happens to be a lot of the time, especially in the Big Ten. However, they have been able to run the backdoor screens ad nauseum against teams they can score inside on and this has been successful.

Michigan will always have to be better than 2 for 20 from the three point line to win games, but I think in these early round tournament games they will be able to score inside on teams like Ohio. They should only be an undersized, outside-shooting-dependent team when they have to be.


March 13th, 2012 at 2:41 PM ^

As an Ohio University grad and former employee I can explain the OHIO thing.  Here it goes:

It is branding.  In 2004 or 2005 OU (as everyone in the state of Ohio calls them) hired a new president and as new presidents usually do he had a "rebranding effort."  Gone was any reference to "OU."  Instead, the university was to be referred to as OHIO in all caps, all the time (kind of like THE in front of OSU).  This was coupled with a push to greatly increase external research funding, something a primarily undergraduate university had no business doing.  They failed to greatly increase the external research funding, but the OHIO thing stuck...kinda.  

If you went to school there or partied there or had friends there it was and is OU.  


March 13th, 2012 at 2:40 PM ^

We've seen a number of performances this year where Michigan has gotten great looks and really won games by creating 2 pt. chances off backcuts, guys taking it to the bucket, etc. When teams are as solid on D as MSU and OSU, this became much more difficult. Ohio does not have this kind of swarming and physical defense. While it is solid, we will be able to generate good looks. Despite what all the media seems to be thinking, Cooper is, in no way, Aaron Craft's equal on the defensive side of the ball, so Burke will get his opportunities. Ohio's D will take chances, and my guess is Michigan exploits it with backcuts, ballfakes and driving to the bucket. If those generate open 3 point looks, fantastic, but I don't think this will be a game where Michigan is forced to pass around the perimeter for 30 seconds then fire up a contested 3, which is when we struggle.