Impressions From Ohio vs. Akron

Here's Ohio guard Walter Offutt coming up with a steal against Akron in the MAC Championship Game.

Since I was unfamiliar with Ohio's style of play beyond what was on KenPom's profile of them -- I hadn't seen them play once this year even though I watch a ton of basketball -- so I decided to watch their last game: a 64-63 thriller over the MAC regular season champion, Akron, to lock up the auto-bid from the MAC. A few things: this is one game, so take all impressions with a grain of salt, Akron has a 7-footer that Ohio's defensive gameplan was built around, and I'm still learning about the intricacies of offensive plays and defensive strategies. I recorded my impressions of Ohio's offense, defense and personnel, so hopefully this gives some insight into how the Bobcats play.

Offense:

  • I was a little surprised to see how little movement there was on offense and how few complex offensive plays the Bobcats ran. There was minimal off-ball screening, very few cuts and only one or two pick-and-rolls. Ohio seemed to run many more isolation-type plays -- be them at the top of the key or on the post. This sometimes bogged down when they couldn't beat their man one-on-one.
  • As you might know already, Ohio forces a ton of turnovers and their game against Akron was no exception. The Bobcats used these turnovers, often in the backcourt, to get out into transition and finish at the rim. Their offense was the most effective in transition off of those turnovers -- especially with DJ Cooper's ability to finish in transition.
  • The Bobcats got quite a few offensive rebounds against taller Akron players with their tenacity and opportunism. Reggie Keely stood out to me in particular as a guy who really gets after it on the offensive glass, and he got four rebounds on the offensive end in this game.
  • There were a few occasions where the Bobcats ran out of bounds plays from Akron's baseline that were designed to get looks for open shooters (Cooper and Nick Kellogg) and they were pretty effective. Watch out for those, as the plays from out of bounds generated some of Ohio's best looks from three point range.

Defense:

  • To be totally honest, I wasn't that impressed with Ohio's vaunted turnover defense. Yes, they did force quite a few against the Zips, but a lot of those turnovers came on largely self-inflicted mistakes such as lazy or inaccurate passes or driving into several defenders in the lane. Ohio deserves credit for forcing those turnovers, but it's not like they were flying around everywhere causing chaos.
  • What they were doing was much less flashy, but very, very sound defense. The Bobcats ran an aggressive man-to-man defense on every possession, and stuck close to their man. Akron struggled mightily to get good shot attempts -- Ohio doubled down to the post when Akron's big men touched the ball and driving and kicking the ball was the only way shooters could consistently get open.
  • Ohio did show a press defense once, but backed off when Akron got the ball in bounds safely. Outside of that, they picked up their man at half-court and didn't play full-court defense.
  • Despite having a 7-footer, Akron only ran a pick-and-roll at the top of the key once and Ohio didn't have their big man hedge and Cooper struggled getting over the screen. Michigan runs that pick-and-roll a lot with Trey Burke and Jordan Morgan, so that could be an opportunity to exploit the Ohio defense.

Key Personnel:

  • DJ Cooper has been getting a lot of hype, and from what I've seen, it's deserved. He didn't always take the most well-advised shots and he sometimes made poor decisions with the ball, but his solid shooting (both from three and from mid-range), ability to get to the rim, and his defensive intensity were all impressive. He put in 23 points against Akron in a multitude of ways so he's a very capable scorer from the point guard spot.
  • Ivo Baltic impressed me a lot during the game against Akron. The tall four man had a solid game against the Zips but he did a very good job of not forcing up shots, playing within himself, and being an absolute pest on the defensive end. He moves well for a guy that's 6'8" so hopefully Zack Novak can be physical enough with him to take him out of his comfort zone.
  • Reggie Keely is the big man for the Bobcats: he's 6'8", 260+ lbs, very aggressive on the glass, and intimidating physically. Keely also showed a little bit of a post game with some nice moves to the bucket, but he's a big body that's in there to cause mayhem, pull down rebounds, and prevent the opponents from getting any good looks whatsoever from inside.
  • Nick Kellogg shoots the ball better than anyone else on Ohio's roster, and doesn't contribute a whole lot more than that. He's shooting over 40% on the year and has attempted 184 threes to 36 twos, so shooting is the reason why he's on the floor. Playing close to him on the perimeter should neutralize his worth as a three point specialist.
  • Walter Offutt was in foul trouble for much of the second half against Akron, but was a very aggressive and physical on both sides of the court. Unfortunately this aggressiveness got him into foul trouble and he played tentatively on offense as a result.
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