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.
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.
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
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 Buckeyes have advanced to their fourth straight Sweet 16 and look to continue hitting their stride in the city of angels tomorrow night against Arizona. Spring football practice has reconvened. The Big Ten has 4 of the 16 teams still vying for the Final Four. It’s Wednesday, let’s rumble!
The range of emotions regarding feelings toward Buckeye point guard Aaron Craft hit the highest of highs and the lowest of lows during Sunday’s 3rd round matchup with Iowa State. The nations best defender was on his game, went through a folly of errors, missed the front ends of two one-and-one free throw attempts, then made the games two biggest defensive plays, drove in for a layup and finally proceeded to drop a bomb to seal the deal.
School: University of Arizona
Location: Tucson, AZ
School Type: Public
Student Population: 39,236 total, 30,867 undergrad
Stadium: McKale Center
Head Coach: Sean Miller
Experience: 4th year
School: Iowa State University
Location: Ames, IA
School Type: Public, Land Grant
Student Population: 31,040 total, 25,553 undergrad
Stadium: Hilton Coliseum
Head Coach: Fred Hoiberg
Experience: 3rd year
Sam Thompson put his full game on display tonight with a 20 point/10 rebound double-double to lead OSU in a rout of their 1st round opponent Iona, 95-70.
Ah, the ebbs and flows of NCAA tournament basketball. Ohio State went on a tear midway through the 1st half (from about the 17 minute mark to the 9 minute mark) expanding their lead from 6-5 to 27-8. Times were good and we settles in to watch the rout. Except if you’re at all familiar with OSU basketball this year, it wasn’t about to last. Over the next seven minutes, the Gaels outscored the Bucks 25-10 to pull within 4 points, 37-33. Ohio State strung together the final 6 points to go into the break with a 43-33 lead.
Even though the Buckeyes shot well in the 1st half, 50% FG, 75% 3-pt, 80% Ft, it was the defense that powered this team. Ohio State (read Aaron Craft) forced 7 turnovers and converted them into 13 points, several on Sam Thompson you-know-whats.
In addition to the 7 turnovers, OSU blocked 5 Iona shots, 3 by Evan Ravenal.
Ohio State needed to come out and regain their focus in 2nd half to put Iona away. Knowing a good thing when they see it, OSU right away went to their strengths; Sam Thompson, DeShaun Thomas and defense. At the 15 minute mark, led by Craft and Shannon Scott, OSU had already forced 5 turnovers and expanded the 10 point halftime lead to 20 points. At about the 10:30 mark Iona’s David Laury fouled out. At that point, any semblance of a front court game went to the bench as well. At about the same time with the 25-point or so lead, Thad began to rest his starters. At the 5:38 ,ark, in an effort to spark his offense, Thad inserted Amedeo Della Valle (FHM).
In somewhat of a defense of Iona, as good as David Laury (14 points, 8 rebounds) and Sean Armond (17 points, 4 assists, 6 rebounds) played tonight, this was an athletic mismatch, without any doubt at all. The Gaels played true to form with a very upbeat pace, but were often enough stymied at the offensive end by OSU’s length, quickness and athleticism.
The Ohio State box score looked pretty good; hard to look bad when you win by 25 points. Aaron Craft ( 4 points,7 assists,6 steals) Sam Thompson ( 20 points, 10 rebounds) DeShaun Thomas (24 points, 3 rebounds) Evan Ravenal (11 points,4 rebounds,3 blocks). For the full box score, go here, it was a thing of beauty.
On Sunday, Ohio State plays the winner of the Iowa State – Notre Dame game, played played later tonight.