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OSU men's basketball preview vs. Western Illinois

There won't be much love for Joe Burton and frontcourt company if they can't dominate the inside of a thin Western Illinois frontline.
There won't be much love for Joe Burton and frontcourt company if they can't dominate the inside of a thin Western Illinois frontline.

Simple stuff:

Name: Western Illinois Leathernecks

Head Coach: Jim Molinari, former Bradley, Northern Illinois Coach

Strength of Schedule (current, projected): 161st, 152nd

RPI: 159th

After losing to the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac 12 tourney, a lot of Beaver fans hoped to be invited to the NIT. After all, they did upset Washington, the regular season champ, and also had a win against Texas to boot. Sadly, a lackluster non-conference schedule left the committee unimpressed, leading to a CBI berth, the third in Coach Robinson's tenure.

So who are these "Leathernecks" from Macomb, Illinois? A brief preview on the Summit League participant after the jump.

The Leathernecks (I'll now refer to them as 'necks) have righted the ship in Coach Jim Molinari's fourth year, winning 18 games (against 14 losses) after a disastrous 7-23 2010-11 season, and was .500 in conference play (9-9). They did beat Summit League regular season champ Oral Roberts in the Summit League Tournament but lost a close game to South Dakota State in the title game, losing a chance to get the automatic bid for the Big Dance.

For the season, Molinari's team plays a really slow style, averaging 61 possessions per contest. But don't mistake slow paced with inefficient; the 'necks shoot 46% from the floor and 39% from 3-land, numbers that are among the Top 75 in the country. They also have an assist-turnover ratio of 1.14, ranked 49th overall. Clearly, the team knows how to move the ball around for the best shot possible. However, the team doesn't crash the offensive glass all that often and are also don't go to the line often.

Defense is a different story somewhat. While opponents shoot around 43% from the floor, they are much better at taking shots from 3, making 35 of them. Thankfully for the 'necks, they can hold their own on the boards and prevent second chance points.

The WIU defense will be anchored not by a big man, but their lead guard in Ceola Clark. He's a two time defensive player of the year but is also the sparkplug offensively. It will be very interesting as to who he will guard: Ahmad Starks of Jared Cunningham. He's also a great shooter, drilling 81 threes on 180 attempts.

Flanking Clark on the wings is freshman Obi Emegano (insert Kenobi jokes here). He's the team's second leading rebounder and second leading scorer. He does a lot of damage slashing, as he only took 8 3 balls the entire year. The final double digit scorer for this team is Terell Parks. He mans up the middle with 12 points and 9 boards, and 1.4 blocks a game. Forward Jack Houpt and swingman Tommie Tyler are the only other players who score more than 6 points a contest.

This is a game that is clearly a clash between two styles: High scoring and not high scoring. OSU needs to find a way to up the tempo if only to tire the starters (Clark plays 37 mpg, Obi 33 mpg especially). Trapping defense to get the game up and running is also not a bad option. However, the Beavers must be aware that WIU can shoot the basketball, and if they are left open the shot will most likely fall.

The inside should play well if only because of the superior depth, but should Ceola manage to shut down one perimeter player, the other two main guards can pick up the slack.

Best of luck at the CBI! Go Beavers!