For those who have given up on basketball for the rest of the season (not that I can blame you) here’s your update on the tournament.
For the first time since the tournament increased to 64 teams, all 4 number 1 seeds failed to make the Final Four. While we’re still waiting on the result of Kentucky and North Carolina, Virginia Commonwealth just took out the last #1 seed 71-61 for their first ever trip to the final four. This is only the third time in history that an 11 seed has made the final four, with George Mason in 2006 and LSU in 1986 being the first two.
Congrats to Shaka Smart for succeeding with all of the chips stacked against him. VCU is the only team to make the final four after having to win 5 tournament games. They will next face the 8 seeded Butler Bulldogs, likely to be a fantastic basketball game.
Welcome to today’s LiveBlog! The Buckeyes welcome the Indiana Hoosiers into the friendly confines of Value City Arena for a rematch of their late December meeting. The Hoosiers are desperately looking for another conference so they can match last season’s success. You just know a victory over the Buckeyes in Columbus would be icing on the cake.
As usual, we’re joined in the LiveBlog by OSU Silver Bullet, Our Honor Defend, Scarlet & Game and Fox Sports Ohio. Make extra certain to stop by the Silver Bullet and congratulate Drew on his recent marriage! (Congrats Drew!)
The game tips at 4:00 PM Eastern Time, LiveBlog at 3:30.
This week, Eric is joined by Michael, one of the new writers at the Our Honor Defend blog. The two spend a large chunk of time discussing Ohio State Basketball, including how the rest of the season is going to shape up, and whether or not they believe Sullinger will stay or go (you may be surprised by the answer).
They also look ahead to next basketball season, and take a peek at the upcoming football season including yet another discussion of the possible Quarterbacking situation.
All this and more on this week’s Buckeye Battle Cry Radio Hour!
Last week on the Buckeye Basketball Breakdown we looked at the way Wisconsin had used the on-ball screen (or ball screen) to open up their three point shooters. Sadly, that strategy worked wonders for Michigan State, Purdue and again for Illinois just last night. All three teams took advantage of the inexperience of Craft and Sullinger to get open looks from beyond the arc.
In last night’s game, Illinois connected on a unbelievable 8-9 (88.89%) of their three point shots in the first half. A lot of that had to do with their ability to screen Craft off his man and pop off a quick shot before Sullinger could respond. However, the Buckeyes adjusted admirably in the second half, forcing Illinois to shoot 1-9 from three in the last stanza.
This switch in strategy is a direct mentality of having found a weakness in the Buckeye’s defense. Consider that before Wisconsin found their new magic bullet, OSU had climbed to a 15 point lead and looked like they were going to make the Badgers pay for the 0-7 Buckeye record in the Kohl Center.
Luckily, it’s looking like Matta and the Buckeyes are learning to handle this new threat, while keeping it from enabling other offensive looks. The win over Illinois last night was particularly impressive in that regard.
Let’s move away from the negative from here. I think there’s enough negative energy floating around the Buckeye Basketball circles as it is (for no good reason, I might add). What I want to talk about today is the second part of screening a shooter for an open look; the off-ball screen.
It doesn’t feel like it, but it has only been a couple of weeks since the Buckeyes soundly curb-stomped Purdue in Columbus. Unfortunately, it’s already time for our return trip; the chance for Matt Painter’s team to try to redeem themselves in front of their home crowd.
As usual, since we’ve already looked at the team once, we’ll take the time to focus on what has happened since the last time we tangled with the Boilers. For the most part, it’s been nothing but sunshine and daisies in West Lafayette.
Since that day, the day that might pay the Boilers back for Purdue-harbor, Purdue has played five games. They went 4-1 in the stretch, including both of their games against Wisconsin and two road games: at Wisconsin and at Illinois. Their one loss came exactly a week after they fell to the Buckeyes, losing to Wisconsin 66-59 at the Kohl Center.
Purdue got to pay the Badgers back, however, catching them Wednesday night with a 70-62 win at home. That game was a close affair the whole way, with Wisconsin holding the lead through the first 10 minutes before letting it slip away.
That would be the last time they lead the whole game. Despite that, they held pace and put themselves in a position to work the usual end-of-game comeback magic. Unfortunately, sometimes that strategy only serves to make the spread worse, as it did here.
As hard as Saturday’s game was to stomach the first time around, it was even worse on the second viewing. It’s just too bad that it had precisely the kinds of plays I wanted to look at for this week’s Breakdown.
However, we’re not going to spit in the face of adversity today. We don’t stoop to such lows around here. Instead we’re going to plow ahead with our heads held high.
And we should. Ohio State played a spectacular ball game in the Kohl Center, and it was only through an incredible feat of athletics that the Badgers were able to pull out that game. By the end of this article, I’m certain you’ll agree with me.
By the way, that feat of athletics happens to go by the name Jordan Tayler. Just in case you were interested.
If you consider the stats of the game, the Buckeyes played lights out the whole day. They outshot the Badgers 54% to 51% from the floor, out rebounded them 25-24, picked up 2 more assists, committed 2 fewer turnovers and 3 fewer fouls, and out shot the best free throw shooting team in the nation (and possibly in NCAA Basketball History) 87%-69% with 3 additional free throws.
On any other day, that’s a win. But when you’re out shot 50% to 33% from beyond the arc, and the opponent takes 24 total three pointers (15 more than you do), you’re gonna have a tough time keeping up. The guy who made that possible? Jordan Taylor.
Did I mention you were going to be sick of his name by the end of this article?
In last week’s article, conveniently named something completely different, we discussed some of the defensive strategies that have been employed to stop Jared Sullinger. Specifically, we looked at Bill Carmody’s ideas in the Northwestern game and how they were different from what teams like Penn State and Purdue had used.
What we didn’t discuss was some of the adjustments the Buckeyes could have used to free up more of their three point shooters. While the previous defensive strategy does allow one man to come open, it’s not always easy to feed him the ball. Also, if Sullinger is on the bench or is not drawing the double team, it would be nice to have some way of freeing up the three point shooters.
There are a couple of different ways to achieve that goal. One of those ways is to attempt to collapse the defense.
The premise of collapsing a defense is based on two key points of defensive basketball.
1) Two men are harder to beat than one. This is the concept of help-side defense and double teaming.
2) It’s easier to score in the paint than outside of it.
Obviously the first is the same logic used when double teaming Sullinger. It’s much harder for a player to beat two defenders than it is to defeat one. This is particularly true given that defenders are limited in what they are allowed to do to prevent a player from going to the hoop.
With the Buckeyes sitting at 22-0 and looking variably unstoppable and completely beatable from game to game, it brings a puzzle to mind: How is it that some of the best defensive minds in college basketball have yet to figure out a way to stop this offense?
Ohio State is playing with a number of freshman (though extraordinarily good ones) and using a fairly basic offensive play set. Those are two traits that should be easily exploitable, and yet very good defensive teams have looked completely lost. Poor Matt Painter didn’t even come close, and he has to be one of the best young guns in the college basketball coaching scene.
But then, suddenly, Bill Carmody’s squad nearly caught the Buckeyes off-guard. What was the difference between the Purdue game and the Northwestern game? Did the Buckeyes simply shoot poorly? Partly. Was there a difference between how Penn State defended the Bucks and how Purdue went about it? Actually, no. Let’s sort out what these teams are doing to try to combat the Buckeyes, and what has worked so far.
First, it’s helpful to understand a little about the Buckeye offense. Functionally, the Bucks work their best magic with a 4 guard, 1 center lineup. If you’ve seen an OSU game this season then you know that the Buckeyes are best with Aaron Craft (1), Jon Diebler (2), William Buford (3), David Lighty (4) and Jared Sullinger (5) on the floor (keep in mind that the numbers for the three experienced players are approximations at best).
This is a rather unusual set for a “big conference team” who can usually recruit and put a more balanced lineup on the floor. The Buckeyes, however, make this strategy work magic for them. Read on to see how.