Nike/LM NCAA Preview: No. 13 Ohio State (Men)
Some big guns of the past are gone, and there are some question marks, but all in all, Ohio State has solidified itself as a Top 15 program over the last couple years.
Can the 2016 version of the Buckeyes keep the run going?
Ohio State at a Glance
2015 Record: 12-7
3 Big Things
1. Transfer Austin Shanks provides offensive boost.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Ohio State has had a steady upper-third nationally-ranked shooting percentage as of late.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Canadian was Bellarmine's top offensive threat last season on attack, and this summer Shanks picked up a bunch of awards in the Ontario Junior A ranks, as the league's leading scorer, MVP and most outstanding player while with the Whitby Warriors. He's lost almost 20 pounds since arriving at Ohio State and has the ability to step into a role on the first midfield held by Turner Evans last season. "He fits our mold," Myers said. "He's in the best shape of his life and he's buying into what it means to be a Buckeye." With Jesse King (42 goals, 35 assists in 2015) gone as well, Shanks' presence can help offset some of the offensive production loss.
2. Returning All-American Robby Haus anchors defense.
The Buckeyes defense traditionally hasn't let much through it — the unit ranked 17th in goals allowed per game last season — and Haus is a returning anchor as a third-team All-American. The Gilman (Md.) product has started all 50 games in his college career and is one of three team captains this year. He is the cousin of recent D-I players John (Maryland), Will (Duke) and Sam (Jacksonville). Erik Evans and Chris Mahoney each started half a season last year alongside Haus on close defense so the unit is experienced in front of returning starting goalie Tom Carey.
3. Buckeyes are projected third in Big Ten behind Maryland and Johns Hopkins.
Johns Hopkins and Maryland, based how they fared last year and what players they have returning, are projected as the top two teams heading into the Big Ten's second season of men's play. Can Ohio State shake things up again, like it did in last year's conference postseason, beating Maryland 9-6 in the semifinal and coming up just short against the Blue Jays in the Big Ten title bout? "We obviously lost some key pieces from a year ago, but this has been a very humble group and one that is eager to improve," Myers said. "Sometimes you have guys that you think you have to convince that this is how we do things. The buy-in from this group of men has been outstanding. Any time you have a degree of success, that helps. This is the first in Buckeye lacrosse history that can say they played in two quarterfinals and have a chance to play more lacrosse. That's just never happened before. This senior group has this wisdom about them. There's no ego. There is no one that has that bravado about them, if you will. And that's not always a bad thing. Logan [Schuss] had an aura about him. Jesse [King] did. I don't think we have that right now. That could be good, bad, whatever it may be, but I think the identity is more of a shared responsibility: We're kind of being overlooked again."
Tom Carey (RS-Jr.)*
* returning starters
To ask him to be Jesse King would be unfair, but Brown will now be looked at to direct the Buckeyes offense. The former ECAC rookie of the year had 37 goals and 55 points last season, ranking second behind King. "It's a unique opportunity for him. His personality is different from a Logan [Schuss], a Jesse, but he's clearly the guy," Myers said. Not a vocal type, Brown, a senior, will be asked to get the Buckeyes into the right offenses on the field and audible when needed depending on matchups. "Carter knows it, he's just now going to do it," Myers said.
Bellarmine's leading scorer a year ago — 31 goals and 13 assists as a sophomore attackman — transferred to Ohio State and could play midfield or on attack. Don't expect many freshmen to crack the Buckeyes' lineup, but defenseman Matt Borges (Garden City, N.Y.) and midfielder Jack Jasinski (Birmingham, Ala.) could push for playing time.
He's a relative unknown Canadian who spent the last two seasons at Division III Adrian in Michigan, but has a ton of potential. He's a 6-foot-2, 220-pound lefty, and was medically cleared late last season after dealing with knee issues. He's drawn comparisons to Mark Matthews in the past.
Biggest Question Mark
Christopher May was fantastic on faceoffs last year, ranking 11th nationally with a 60.3 win rate. But he was a senior. Jake Withers, now a sophomore, went 44-for-86 (51.2 percent) as May's backup last year.
Returning All-American Robby Haus will anchor the Buckeyes defense as they look to make a deep postseason run again. (John Strohsacker)
What rival coaches say about the Buckeyes
"Jesse King has been a big part of what they do since he stepped foot on campus; replacing him won't be easy. They should be solid defensively again. Brown will have to take on a larger role offensively."
"Jesse King graduating is a huge loss for this team. Can see it having a very similar impact to the graduation of Logan Schuss in 2013 where they then struggled in 2014. King and Schuss both did very similar things and helped to carry the teams in '13 and '15 to new heights."
"The impact of the two-man game on offense is felt no stronger than in Buckeye Nation. Whether it is the style of dodging, the mechanics of feeding (butt-end pointed towards the target) or the actual picks on ball, Nick Myers and Brad Ross have their team playing box lacrosse on the big field. And with the notable exception of the goose egg they posted against the Irish in the regular season last year, it was very effective, as they proved twice they could score goals on the national champion Pioneer squad. Jesse King will be sorely missed, but I like the Buckeyes to be right back in the NCAA tournament and again make the quarterfinals."
NCAA quarterfinal appearances by Ohio State in the last three years.
6 @ Furman
20 @ UMass
19 @ Denver
March 19 at Denver
The Ohio State schedule includes all four final four teams from last year, one of them being old ECAC rival Denver. In the last five years, Ohio State is 3-5 against the Pioneers, but none of those wins have come in Colorado. If this is the year, it would be a big pick-me-up for the Bucks ahead of a home game against Notre Dame before the Big Ten slate begins. Of course, the Showdown in the Shoe against Michigan on April 16, prior to the Buckeyes spring football game, is one to watch as well.
A Feb. 6 season-opener on the road at Furman. Ohio State will take an eight-hour bus ride to start the 2016 season in North Carolina. Two weeks later on Feb. 20, the Bucks will look for something else new: its first win over UMass in program history.
This will be a different team than the one that upset Duke in the NCAA first round last year, but there's tradition building in Columbus. Ohio State has made two of the last three NCAA tournaments and won a first-round game each time.
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