Category Archives: Ohio State men’s basketball

The Agony and the Ecstasy, Or Watching 2012 Buckeye Basketball

This Ohio State team is scary in a lot of ways, and I mean that as a compliment and a criticism.

They can do almost everything, but it’s not always clear when they’ll do anything.

Some of the feelings that arise from watching this group of Buckeyes are no doubt a matter of perception, leftovers from a high preseason ranking and even the residual effect of last year’s excellent but disappointing team.  Continue reading The Agony and the Ecstasy, Or Watching 2012 Buckeye Basketball

Regarding the whole Ohio State-Cincinnati thing…

I’m generally inclined to think the city of Cincinnati is not anti-Ohio State*.

Downtown Cincinnati viewed from the southwest

More likely the Queen City and its residents have a more balanced relationship with the Buckeyes than the rest of the scarlet-and-gray drenched denizens of the state. That is a major part of the perception regardless of the angle here.

This was really driven home to me in 2010 as I worked on a story about Ohio State football and its supposed struggles recruiting Cincinnati and the surrounding areas (hey, you knew it was going to come back to football eventually, right?). Continue reading Regarding the whole Ohio State-Cincinnati thing…

Some thoughts on the Big Ten tournament

Well the weekend in Indianapolis was certainly an interesting one.

I have enjoyed covering the women’s Big Ten tournament there for the past six years, but this was my first trip for the men’s version, and I liked just about everything about it.

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The tipoff between Ohio State and Purdue at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

The whole thing was run very well, and the teams played their parts as well from Michigan’s comeback against Minnesota on Friday night to Ohio State’s big run to put away Purdue. Ohio State and Michigan State both dispatched of semifinal opponents then staged a classic in the championship game.

What do we think of the Buckeyes now? Continue reading Some thoughts on the Big Ten tournament

An Ohio State Leap Of Faith?

Maybe all Ohio State needed to right itself for a championship run was one more day in February.

In beating Northwestern 75-73 on Feb. 29, the Buckeyes fell short of fixing all that has ailed them for much of the Big Ten season, but they showed some signs of the team they were once thought to be.

Their biggest star, Jared Sullinger, not only came up with the game-winning shot but was the overall man of the match with 22 points and 18 rebounds. He was engaged on both ends of the floor, and his teammates were willing and eager to use his considerable gifts to the team’s advantage.

Four players scored in double figures, including 14 big points from point guard Aaron Craft. Not only was the ball finding Sullinger in places he could use it, Craft found himself open for a handful of spot-up threes and he took advantage four times. Craft seems to be looking for his shot a little more lately, something that could make the rest of the offense more dangerous if he is successful.

Not everything was all wine and roses, however. There were those 16 turnovers, a slew of which came down the stretch as an eight-point lead melted away completely. Craft made some questionable decisions, but he was smart enough to get the ball to Sullinger at the end, and he picked his spots well earlier in the game.

One still has to wonder where was William Buford as he scored only six points, but unlike some earlier performances he seemed into it throughout. His shot wasn’t falling, but I think it’s important for him to continue to look for it as a function of the offense. He added six rebounds and four assists with only one turnover, too, so there were some positives.

Northwestern shot 50 percent from the floor and hit 13 of 27 three-pointers, another familiar stat line from a couple of this team’s earlier defeats, but the degree of difficulty was considerable on a number of those looks. The Wildcats made more than a few shots under duress or from well beyond the three-point line, the type that leave you sometimes merely tipping your cap. That’s not the general feeling I’ve come away with in most of the previous outside shooting clinics we’ve seen against the Buckeyes.

This was not the type of performance that crowns a champion, but it could be a building block if the ball continues to move on offense and the defensive communication is strong.

It comes literally not a moment too soon as the regular season finale looms in East Lansing on Sunday, a game that looked like it would probably be just a formality as recently as two days ago but that now carries promise of a piece of the Big Ten championship that seemed like a gimme at the start of the season.

This team still needs to get tougher and smarter, but it showed some signs against a desperate, tournament-quality team on its home floor. There was probably more to take from this win than any of the blowout wins at home the Buckeyes have enjoyed. One wonders about the lapses that let leads slip away – as we saw against Wisconsin on Sunday in a then-crippling loss – but can still come away thinking there were signs they are starting to get what they need to do to be successful, to deliver on the promise that so many saw when they dominated Duke and downed Florida in the pre-conference schedule.

Michigan State could bludgeon all that hope away in 40 minutes or less on Sunday, but the Buckeyes have to be happy to be back in the game.

It is March, after all.

On basketball minutes, toughness, etc.

Are the Ohio State men’s basketball players playing too many minutes?

Doug Lesmerisis takes a good look at the issue.

People (myself included) are conditioned to look for this and thus will be quick to look to it whenever they get the chance and everything isn’t going perfectly, but the effect is probably less than it seems.

Doug makes a good point that sometimes playing inferior players too many minutes can cost a team, and there are coaches who spread out their minutes because the guys coming off the bench are almost as good as the starters (or maybe the starters are almost as bad as the guys on the bench).

The more minutes good players get, the more good things they are going to do. Consequently, the more minutes bad players get, the more likely it is they will eventually do something bad*.

Was fatigue a factor in Ohio State’s loss to Purdue? Maybe, but I doubt it.

Perhaps perimeter defense is just not a strong point of this team to begin with.  Obviously, Aaron Craft is a great on-the-ball defender, but that’s not the same thing as trailing a guy through screens and keeping hands up and in passing lanes (referring to the whole team, not Craft solely). They should be able to lock people up with their length, but it takes everyone being on the same page.

And if Ohio State looked sluggish on offense… well what else is new? That’s what Matta’s type of offense is going to look like if it doesn’t keep the ball moving, whether it is the first possession of the game or the last. I felt like the Buckeyes looked a bit out of sorts throughout the Purdue game, like perhaps they were pressing. They seemed to lose their sense of what was a good shot and what was not, sometimes overpassing when they had good looks.

While some of us concentrate on minutes or shooting percentages, I’m interested to see head coach Thad Matta emphasize toughness. That has been the overriding theme with the women’s team (my beat for BSB, if you didn’t know) this year and last as well, so it really caught my eye.

People talk a lot about toughness but the concept seems more difficult to truly grasp than it first appears it should.

Maybe that initial appearance contributes to the greater difficulty. Maybe thinking something can be done easily tricks the mind into putting it off.

Toughness is fighting through screens. It’s avoiding false steps or taking a breath at the wrong time and letting a guy pop open for a shot that changes the course of a game by extending a run or stopping one. Getting loose balls and securing rebounds out of one’s area.

And doing those things on the road as opposed to in the comforts of home is significantly different.

Can lack of those types of plays be caused by fatigue? Maybe. But I’d argue more likely toughness is a fatigue fighter when all is said and done. Perhaps the existence of fatigue is inconsequential if the toughness message sinks in.

Or maybe what we see as fatigue is really just a lack of toughness.

We’ll find out more as the season winds down and the calendar flips to March.

*However,  I wonder if Deshaun Thomas and Jordan Sibert would be more comfortable and more effective if they had played more minutes earlier in the season, but it’s too late now.