Buckeye Six Pack: Badger Beatdown Forces A Shift In Expectations

traevoncraft

traevoncraftDue to a family illness, I was unable to do my usual recap for the Wisconsin game on Sunday afternoon (at least I picked a good one to skip). With that in mind and another tough matchup on the docket tonight with Minnesota visiting The Schott, I’m going to dig into some numbers and thoughts about the Buckeyes as we are just a few weeks away from the conference tournament.

1. I’ve given up on the Buckeyes winning the Big Ten regular season title (or any sort of share of it). I know, it may be obvious at this point, but I really did think with a win in Madison, it was possible. With five conference losses, the Bucks would have a lot of scoreboard watching to do, and even in the cut-throat conference that the Big Ten is, there’s no way Indiana (2 losses), Michigan State (3), Michigan (4), and Wisconsin (4) are going to lose enough of the required games left for there to be a five-loss champ. After watching the Indiana-Michigan State game last night, I’m very sure that those two versatile, deep, physical teams are just a level above the Buckeyes and the rest in the conference. No one can throw out three legit weapons like Zeller, Oladipo, and Watford.

2. The sophomore class for Ohio State has been disappointing in a lot of ways. For one, they failed to make any sustainable impact on last year’s team that could have used a deeper bench. Some of that (maybe a lot of that) was Thad Matta not playing them in meaningful games, but I have to believe if they were showing it in practice, then they’d be on the floor. This season, there are two in the starting lineup (Thompson and Williams) and two more (Scott and Ross) playing significant minutes off the bench. None have been that consistent scoring option or dominant defensive threat, but they’ve all truly had their moments that have helped the Buckeyes to crucial wins.

  • Shannon Scott scored 15 against Kansas, but hasn’t had more than 5 in any Big Ten game. He also has only played 20 minutes or more once since that ill-fated attempt at a last second shot against Michigan State one month ago. His defense and ability to push the tempo off the bench while finding others is a key asset to the OSU attack. I feel as if he’s not getting enough playing time lately, but some of that almost has to be directly related to Craft’s offensive improvement and the offensive limitation of Scott.
  • Sam Thompson had a great week, scoring 21 points and shooting 9-of-14 in two games, and his 49% shooting shows that he picks his moments and has overall sound shot selection. He’s come a long way from 55% at the foul line and 1-for-14 from three point range last season. Another guy coming on strong is most definitely Amir Williams. Williams had a nightmarish 9 minute, 4 foul game at Wisconsin where he didn’t do much of anything, but prior to that, considering how few possessions that he uses, Williams has been getting more efficient.
  • LaQuinton Ross’s advanced stats are certainly intriguing. His true shooting percentage (55.2%) and effective field goal percentage (52.0%) nearly mirror that of Deshaun Thomas (56.3% and 52.5% respectively). Where the dropoff comes into play is his frightening turnover rate (24.3%!!!!) when compared to Thomas at 9.4%, good for 20th in the nation. Thomas also has nearly twice the assist rate that Ross does as well. In short, Ross can shoot it, but the all-around game just isn’t there right now.
  • I think Ohio State’s next serious run at a Final Four type scenario will be next year with these guys as experienced juniors. Each OSU final four team has had upperclassmen leadership and contributing talent (Jamar Butler, Ron Lewis in ’06 and William Buford in ’12), so with a potential senior class of Craft, Smith Jr., and Thomas, losing only Evan Ravenel, this team could take their bruises this season for a run next year.

3. This year’s Buckeyes have taken their lumps. So often, Matta’s teams have cruised into the tourney with little to no adversity to face. A brutal schedule this year has seen Ohio State lose in tough fashion to Duke, Michigan, and Michigan State on the road and Kansas at home while being blown out by Illinois and Wisconsin on the road and Indiana at home. This team has had to meet its shortcomings head on much earlier than other Matta squads. Like a lot of Izzo’s Michigan State teams that come into the tournament in third or fourth place in the conference, a first round exit in the conference tourney, and a resulting lower seed, maybe this year’s bunch will have little to no expectations to make it past the first weekend and use that anonymity to their advantage.

4. Last week was characterized by lots of painful three pointers being tossed like acid into the Bucks’ eyes. Northwestern canned 11-of-26, while Wisconsin knocked down 7-of-19. They were outscored from the arc by 18 (NW) and 12 (Wisc), and they just don’t have the firepower to consistently match some teams’ efforts from range. The Buckeyes surrender a startling 32% of their points allowed from beyond the three-point arc, good for 25th most in the nation.

5. Some additional interesting team stats, courtesy of KenPom.com.

  • Ohio State is first in the country when it comes to offensive steal percentage (6.6%), meaning a good portion of their miscues are dead ball turnovers (think charges, traveling violations, and passes out of bounds.)
  • Other than Deshaun Thomas’s 117.3 offensive rating, the second best mark is 108.6 (per 100 possessions, mind you) and it belongs to, shockingly, Amir Williams.
  • Pomeroy has an interesting exclusive stat, which is fouls drawn per 40 minutes. Using this and comparing with fouls called on the player per 40 minutes, we see that most of OSU’s main contributors come out on the positive side. Of the eight regular rotation players, only Scott, Ravenel, and Williams commit more fouls than they draw. This speaks to OSU’s ability to play tough, positional defense without fouling often. They rank 37th in FTA/FGA, but they also don’t draw nearly enough fouls, ranking 219th in that metric on the offensive side of things.

 

6. Tonight is Minnesota in The Schott. The Gophers are the top offensive rebounding team in the country (45.2%) and they block the sixth most shots per possession (16.9%). They’ve also faced the single toughest schedule of anyone this season, and they’ve incurred seven of their eight losses in conference. Minnesota has beaten Wisconsin and Michigan State, and the Bucks get yet another angry team, as the Golden Gophers are fresh off a 21-point drubbing against Iowa three days ago.

(Photo: Andy Manis/AP)

 

  • @TheDeePagel

    Like it or not this year’s team is greatly dependent on Williams. Think about it – our best game of the season @Michigan Williams has his best game. He was on the verge of breaking out after that game. Since then, our embarrassing losses to Indiana and Wisconsin, Williams has missed huge chunks with foul trouble. Our team’s growth and success is almost entirely connected to his growth and success. This both scares me and excites me all at once. While we may struggle in the B1G with this connection, I still think it bodes very well heading into March.