COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The last time I covered college basketball, I watched Ohio State destroy opponents in its first two games of the 2011 NCAA tournament in Cleveland.
Those Buckeyes look destined for greatness, but they would fall short in the Sweet 16 against Kentucky. Now comes their first major test of the 2011-12 season in just the second game of the year at Value City Arena.
For an early-season showdown, it doesn't get much better than No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 8 Florida. Of course, these two teams played last year at this time, and the Buckeyes won 93-75 in Gainesville. The Gators will be looking for some revenge, though no November wins by the Bucks can make up for losing to Florida in the 2007 national title game.
I'm really looking forward to seeing a slimmed-down Jared Sullinger, the odds-on favorite to win national player of the year honors. He had his first star-making turn in last year's win over Florida, and we'll see if Patric Young can do anything to slow the double-double machine down.
If the Gators have an edge, it's in the backcourt with the experienced duo of Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker, plus Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario and talented freshman Bradley Beal. That's a lot of bodies on the perimeter that Billy Donovan can throw at Ohio State, though starters Aaron Craft and William Buford can also do a lot of damage for Thad Matta's team. I'll particularly be watching Buford, an explosive scorer who will have to pick up some of the defensive slack left by departed senior David Lighty.
Ohio State is awfully young, starting four sophomores and using freshmen off the bench. Its young players handled the pressure well last season, and that will have to happen again this year.
With the Buckeyes football team struggling, you get the sense that this community is hoping for something special from this basketball team. We'll start to find out tonight if that's the case.