01 March 2012
We’re officially ten days out from Selection Sunday and the panic button is still fully engaged in
Can the Buckeyes right the ship this late in the season and still make a run to the National Title as was expected back in November? Kemba Walker would say yes.
While improbable at this point, watching
The Buckeyes have talent and that’s undeniable. The arguments for Thad Matta to better use that talent have been well documented throughout the ups and downs of recent weeks, but the pieces are in place to be dominant.
We have star power with reigning national freshman of the year Jared Sullinger who happens to be coming off a 22-point, 18-rebound performance in last night’s two-point win over Northwestern on the road, a much needed performance out of the man who has admittedly been “distracted” as of late.
We have an established point guard and floor general in Aaron Craft who plays as good of defense as any PG in
William Buford, in the eyes of most, has had a down year versus expectation. He’s averaged his 14.8 points and 5 rebounds, but that’s no better than what he put up as a sophomore two seasons ago. We expected a break out season for the senior and he simply hasn’t delivered. His shooting percentage (42.9%) is the lowest in his four seasons as a Buckeye. His on-court leadership is much needed but nonexistent. Any burst of offense or consistency from Buford come tournament time could be a key factor that puts the Buckeyes over the top.
DeShaun Thomas has somewhat surprisingly averaged 15 points and 5 rebounds over the course of the season and in doing so has really become Ohio State’s second scoring threat behind Sullinger – a role that was meant for senior William Buford this year.
Thomas has still had many of the same struggles as he did as a freshman, mainly with streaks of poor shot selection that lead to poor shooting percentages, but he’s also had his share of break-out performances as a sophomore. He’s put up 18 or more points in nine games this year, including 30 on the road against
Any output we can get from Lenzelle Smith, Jr. has proven to be a bonus. The 12 points and 7 assists he recorded last night in
Proven Performance - Duke
The single performance that has shown the most in line with potential was unquestionably back on November 29th when Ohio State ran the #4 Duke Blue Devils straight out of the Schott with a dominating 85-63 early-season win as part of the B1G/ACC Challenge. The Buckeyes that showed up that night could compete with any team in
Sullinger seemed to get his groove back last night after a few down performances while admittedly being “distracted.” Unfortunately Buford has continued with his inconsistency. Over the last seven games he’s had outputs of 29, 24, 17, and 15 points while squeezing in a pedestrian 6 and 4 in the two biggest games of the stretch, versus MSU and our rivals up north. Last night he was the only starter who didn’t reach double digits. As long as that inconsistency is a reality, subpar performances like that out of Buford could be what ends our season in the win-or-go-home tournament format.
With that being said, this team has the talent and system to get multiple players in double digits. Last night was one such box score that looked pretty familiar to the recipe that knocked off Duke, all be it against a much lesser opponent. Against Northwestern we got 22 points, 19, 14, and 12 out of Sullinger, Thomas, Craft and Smith, respectively. The night the Buckeyes ambushed the Blue Devils we saw Sullinger, Thomas, Craft and Buford combine for 76 – which alone would have beaten Duke by 13.
Eight different players took shots against Duke. Evan Ravenal went 0-2, but nobody else shot less than 50% en route to a 59% shooting night as a team. Is that repeatable come tournament time? It is, but not likely in the same fashion. The 2012 version of
Gone are the days of Diebler camping behind the line and burying daggers, but if
I’m not so sure, aside from one fateful night in
The Huskies caught lightening in a bottle last March, rattling off eleven straight wins en route to a Big East Tournament crown and ultimately a national championship. They entered their conference tournament having lost seven of eleven before knocking off DePaul, #22
Once the NCAA tourney got here it was Kemba-or-Bust for UConn.
Even with the amazing run by
We have the talent and have proven how devastating it can be when it all comes together for a night. We have the ‘star’ in Jared Sullinger, who can be as dominant inside as any name in the tournament on any given day. Starting with a rock-solid point guard, the Buckeyes have a cast of characters with the potential to mount a successful March run. So who is the key?
I say it’s DeShaun Thomas.
Yes, we need more consistency out of Buford. No, Smith can’t put up goose eggs as a 2-guard and expect us to win. Sullinger must be focused and engaged, Craft needs to take care of the ball and put guys where they belong and the bench needs to contribute more than the 1 point they recorded in a loss to
DeShaun is easily the hottest Buckeye as of late, averaging more than 21ppg over his last six. That is precisely the momentum that needs carried into tournament time. That’s the second half of a one-two punch that, if sustained over a stretch, can carry a team like
Thomas’ performance this Sunday could tell us all we need to know about what we’re going to see in the tournament from him. He’s on a roll now, and Sunday’s game is the perfect storm for an evaluation of heart and guts. Thomas went just 2-12 for eight points in
Will he step up, or melt in the fire? Will the Buckeyes come to play as a unit, or look second-tier as they did in the first go around with
Plenty of factors go into a March run, luck included, but we’re about to see exactly what