I couldn’t believe an entire basketball season had passed us by and I hadn’t yet written a Buckeye Basketball Breakdown. It just goes to show you what the final year of a graduate studies program can do to your soul…and your free time. But those are similar really.
Given how the NCAA Tournament wrapped up, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about what we saw this year from the Buckeyes, and what we might have to look forward to in the future.
I will be the first to admit that I was particularly worried about this team going into Big Ten play. Seeing the Buckeyes meltdown against Duke, struggle with Kansas at home, and generally perform lackadaisically in the first half of every game, I was quite pessimistic on the night of January 4th. I knew the team was growing, I could see their development, but I was extremely worried by what I had seen to that point.
And then the first Illinois game happened the very next day.
Surprisingly, my opinions of the team improved dramatically after that. They fought hard and picked up a pair of wins in that four game stretch, including a huge win against Michigan. They started to clue in to how to play proper basketball, but they were still missing something.
Basketball season is officially over. Depending on your perspective on how you look at the season’s overall content, this year was either a huge overachieving success or a flaming disaster. It’s Wednesday night, let’s rumble!
There really is no better word for the majority of Buckeye Nation’s overriding feeling on Saturday night after the final horn sounded. They were shocked, me included.
How could Wichita State seemingly blow the doors off of our beloved Buckeyes for the better part of 30 minutes and hang on to eliminate the West region’s number 2 seed? How could a Buckeye team that only two weeks ago in Chicago appeared to be finally hitting its stride look so terrible in a regional final with a trip to the Final Four on the line?
Another Tuesday, another week, another month. Grab your coffee and let’s dive in.
Welcome to a special Ohio State men’s basketball edition. Now that, as far as we’re concerned, basketball season is on, it may be time for some reflection. This article is in two parts; first some commentary on the Ohio State – Wichita State game, then thoughts on the season in general.
Ohio State – Wichita State
Before I get too far into this, I want to acknowledge the beautifully conceived and executed game plan on the part of Gregg Marshall and his WSU team. They clearly identified OSU’s weaknesses and exploited them.
On to Part the First. I was in Ohio over Easter weekend getting some high quality family time, so I did not participate in the ingame live blog, which was probably good, all things considered. What follows are some comments/questions that arose around our television Saturday evening.
The 1st half was as big a clinker as I’ve seen this team have in some time. The offense seemed to me to be completely out of sorts and very passive, settling for jump shots. There seemed to be no ‘learning’ from the 2nd of the Arizona game where aggressive play created higher percentage FG opportunities. The 22 points in Saturday’s 1st half were “driven” by the 24% shooting, and a strange, awful appearance of ‘Bo Ball’. The Buckeyes were 2-10 from 3’s and only attempted 7 free throws. For 20 minutes, Ohio State managed to out-Wisconsin Wisconsin.
At this point, the game turned into Greek myth/tragedy, with the part of Sisyphus played by Ohio State. Six minutes into the game, OSU took the lead, held it for approximately one minute, and then was faced with a series of uphill climbs for the rest of the game. The Buckeyes just couldn’t get any scoring runs going. Since WSU did a good job of getting back on defense, OSU couldn’t get the breakaway baskets they needed and had to resort to a half-court offense, which frankly, isn’t the best.
In January I did a little piece on how I saw the basketball team, up to that point in the season. I harped on five issues, let’s revisit them to see what had changed in the last two and a half months. You may need to toggle between articles. Take your time.
1. This is not that good of a shooting team, particularly in key games
I didn’t think so then, I don’t think so now. Back then they were shooting 46.1%, good for 52nd nationally. The Buckeyes ended the season shooting 45.1%, good for 79th position.
2. This is an inconsistent team
I don’t believe this point has changed much either. Generally, OSU tended to start their games very slow, muddle through the first half’s, then play much more focused and with more energy in the second half.
3. This is a team with no legitimate post presence.
This became more obvious as the season progressed. The Buckeyes played their best ball when they went ‘small’. The formula that ‘Dr. Thad’ concocted was to start Amir Williams to win the opening tip then make substitutions at the first media time out.
4. This team is not fun to watch
They didn’t bore us to death, that’s for sure. This is one issue where I’ve changed my mind. As Thad settled on his starting lineup and substitution patterns, it seemed like the players began to gel as a true team. After the ‘Mauling in Madison’, I think the players stepped up to take responsibility for their actions and executing the game plan. And the results showed. If nothing else, this aspect can be taken as a huge win for the coaches and the players.
5. Coaching Impact
Just to be clear, this pertains to player development, not coaching strategies, etc. My bone of contention was that I had not seen significant, if any, improvement between sophomore and junior years of Craft, Smith Jr and Thomas. My position hasn’t changed on that. However, I saw significant improvement in sophomores Sam Thompson, LaQuinton Ross, and (at the very end of the season) a glimmer of hope this year Amir Williams. Now, if these three can show same improvements between their sophomore to junior year as they did this year, I’d say Thad & Staff have done a very good job.
Not really, no.
My brother and I were discussing this over Sunday morning coffee when he made the observation that ‘ maybe Ohio State overachieved this year.’ The team lost 32 points per game (Sullinger/Buford) and the returning three starters (Thomas/Craft/Smith Jr) contributed 31 ppg. Losing half of your starters’ offensive output provided some challenges of where to find it.
This team may also have been ‘victimized’ by expectations that were set too high. The Buckeyes started out ranked #4 in the country. Why & how eludes me; clearly people should have known that ‘Sully’ and ‘Buf’ had moved on..
Finally, I had commented several times/several places during the course of the season that it would not have surprised me if OSU would lose 10 games during the regular season, due in great part to the above five issues (silly me). The fact that this team came together to finish the season having won 12 of their last 14 games, with an 11 game win streak tossed in, speaks volumes to how the players and coaches figured it out. This speaks very well for all of them.
Andy Coppens and I are at it again folks. Throwing rocks at the Minnesota athletic department, and raving about Tom Crean’s horrible hairdo…. or execution… one of the two.
If I was on my A game, we would of touched on both.
Thanks to Andy for having me on again, make sure you check out all of his hard work at The B1G Time. He is putting in the hours, and his work is as solid as the conference he covers.
On this week’s show, we preview the final four. Will Michigan have what it takes to get to the title game? We also look back at the Elite 8 losses Ohio State and Indiana suffered from the weekend. We also break down the latest transfer news from Illinois, break down Chris Collins’ hiring at Northwestern, and take a look at who are possible remaining candidates for the open Minnesota job.
As always, thanks for listening! And now you can find The B1g Time Podcast on Itunes!
Some weekend, eh? Grab your coffee and let’s get right to it.
A week that started out fairly well, then crashed and burned. In the NCAA’s, they’ve managed to dust Iowa State 78-75, Arizona 73-70 and then fell flat against Wichita State 66-70. I don’t have much to add to the fine recaps, above, however you can bet that after some musing on my part, I’ll have something to say next week. It seemed that Thad was pushing the right buttons and the team responded in the first two games. On Saturday, things were pretty disjointed. I’d hoped the 2nd half effort against Arizona would carry into the WSU game, but alas, no. Although the offense gott significant points from
senior junior DeShaun Thomas and LQR, that was it, unfortunately.
I hate to do this, but let’s start with a definition: to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest: to hate the enemy. Read More
The Buckeyes are in the Elite Eight, and playing the Wichita State Shockers for a trip to the Final Four. For more on the Shockers, check out Ken’s work from yesterday.
Join us and The Buckeye Blog, Buckeye Empire, Men of the Scarlet and Gray, and Buckeye Ninja as we cheer on the Buckeyes in tournament time! The chat will kick off around 6:50 PM Eastern, with tip off on CBS around 7:05 pm.
Special thanks to Fox Sports Ohio for graciously helping with these livechats all year long!
School: Wichita State University
Location: Wichita, KS
School Type: Public
Student Population: 14,806 total, 11,763 undergrad
Stadium: Charles Koch Arena “The Roundhouse”
Head Coach: Gregg Marshall
Experience: 6th year
The Arizona Wildcats gave the Buckeyes a rude welcome to the Sweet 16 to start, but the Buckeyes put together an excellent run to reclaim the lead and put the game away 73-70 on a last second LaQuinton Ross three pointer to advance to the Elite Eight. Despite the rough start, the game developed into a back and forth battle that Arizona very nearly reclaimed. DeShaun Thomas led the Buckeyes with 20 points, and was joined in scoring by LaQuinton Ross (17), Aaron Craft (15), and Sam Thompson (11). Arizona was led by Mark Lyons’ 20 points, along with Solomon Hill’s 16.
Arizona controlled the first half for the balance on the strength of a stifling defensive effort. The work shutting down the OSU offense turned into easy points on the other end for the Cats, often on the fast break, but also against a surprising flat Buckeye defense. Of course, that wasn’t about to stop the Wildcats from building a double digit lead with their three point shooting, mostly while Aaron Craft sat on the bench with 2 fouls. But, Thad Matta wasn’t going to let it stay that way. With six minutes to go in the half, Matta risked putting Craft back into the game to try regain control of the momentum. The strategy worked brilliantly, allowing the Bucks to finish on a 12-6 run to close to within 4 points going into the locker room.
What didn’t help the effort for either team was the ludicrous pace of the game as dictated by the officials. I won’t say that the calls were necessarily wrong, but with both teams in the bonus with just under 10 minutes to go in the first half, there were certainly a lot of them. Only at the very end of the half did the officials seem to loosen up on the controls and allow the players to simply play the game.
The Buckeyes came out of the half ready to play basketball. OSU jumped out on a quick 8-0 run on the strength of their own tough defense to take their first lead since the opening possessions. They were able to continue to push that momentum to a solid 8 point lead while continuing to suppress Arizona’s scoring. Not surprisingly, that wasn’t to last. After building up a 10 point lead, the Buckeyes found themselves taking fire from Solomon Hill of Arizona, who sank 9 straight points and brought the game within four.