When one attempts to put into words the impact that Aaron Craft has on a basketball game, a team’s season, or a program in four short years, it proves to be an incredibly tough task. Running jokes about Craft’s tenure at Ohio State lasting the better part of a decade aside, he’s been the engine that keeps his team running, all the while saying the right things and excelling in the classroom. Ohio State basketball had seen some of its darkest days in Craft’s tenure with the team—and likely longer with losses in five out of seven January contests, including failures against bottom-dwellers Nebraska and Penn State.
Last night was an eye opening evening in my favorite sport. As I laid in my bed with a wicked sore throat, I had a few moments of clarity as conference play began all over the country. Iowa State, which is one of the five remaining unbeaten teams, is to me the clear front runner in the Big 12, a league that has been won by Kansas nine consecutive years. The SEC is easily the worst of the power conferences; one of their alleged better teams, LSU, was destroyed at home by Tennessee last night and looked bad doing so. But my biggest perception change for the better came from a team that lost.
I am officially sold on the Ohio State Buckeyes as a Final Four contender.
An outcome assured, I was armed with thoughts of disappointment. The Buckeyes, relatively untested through 15 games, headed to East Lansing for their toughest game on the regular season slate, and they didn’t look ready for it. A season-high 17 turnovers in the game’s first 32 minutes, the team’s two leading scorers in LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. a combined for 4-for-18 for 12 points, a scoreless first half from the starting backcourt of Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott, a run of 11-2 to close the first half, and falling behind by 17 points in the second half were going to be the key barbs to hammer home.
And then, sheer lunacy unfolded. The Bucks erased that 17-point hole to force overtime and nearly pulled off the stunner in the Breslin Center. Sparty on the strength of key threes from Keith Appling and Adreian Payne regrouped to hold on 72-68 in overtime, but it was the comeback and the emergence of new ready-for-primetime players that has me most intrigued moving forward.
While We’re Waiting is a space on the WaitingForNextYear website where we share links every day. We’ve been doing it for about four years or so. Denny Mayo used to be much more amusing with his intros, if you recall. You know the drill: Email us with suggestions at email@example.com.
What are the Cavs right now? Who is their core? Looking deep inside their system: “So far this season, despite a near abuse of the words ‘culture’ and ‘process’ in Mike Brown’s renewed jog with the team, the Cavs seem more like a DeMarcus Cousins Kings team than a culture team. Right now, their identity is a cult of personality… and that personality is the Rubix Cube that is Andrew Bynum.” [Robert Attenweiler/Cavs: The Blog] [Read more...]
One year later, following a non-game debacle on an aircraft carrier in Charleston, South Carolina, the 10th-ranked Buckeyes and 17th-ranked Golden Eagles finally got together to play some basketball. I’d be lying to you if I said that this game was some kind of classic game. In fact, it was ugly, and that’s coming from someone who sat through the Cavs-Bobcats game in person on Friday night! Two coaches and two teams that pride themselves on scrappy, defensive play and athleticism don’t always have good shooting to accompany that. The Buckeyes grabbed the win by a 52-35 margin as the two teams combined to score the fewest number of first half points this season in college basketball. Here are some thoughts on the Bucks’ key early season victory.
-When I first saw that Thad Matta chose to start both Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott in the backcourt to begin the season, I was confused and didn’t necessarily agree with the decision. First, it makes the Buckeye starting five incredibly small with the 6’2″ Craft, 6’3″ Scott, and the 6’4″ Lenzelle Smith Jr. sliding over to play the three spot. But, as it is, Sam Thompson comes off the bench as a super sixth man. But, you see why Matta likes this setup for defensive purposes. [Read more...]
The Ohio State men’s basketball team began their season on Saturday with an 89-50 victory over Morgan State. While there were many highlights in a 39 point victory, the moment generating the most buzz happened before the ball even tipped off.
While in the tunnel signing autographs, Buckeyes’ senior guard Aaron Craft was handed a rubik’s cube by a fan. A little over a minute later, the cube was solved and the fan had one very unique piece of memorabilia from the Big Ten’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
Craft’s rubik’s cube skills first gained notoriety back in his sophomore season. After reportedly completing one with one hand while conducting a phone interview with CBSSports, Craft put his skills on display for the cameras at The Big Ten Network.
In addition to being known for his talents on the court, Craft was named the 2012-13 Men’s Basketball Academic All-America Team Members of the Year.
Craft had 5 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds in the Buckeyes’ blowout win.
[Related: Uni Talk: Threads of the Scarlet and Gray]
It was an up and down season for Thad Matta’s Ohio State Buckeyes. The team ended their season last Saturday night with a 29-8 record and a loss to Wichita State in the Elite Eight 70-66 after trailing by as many as 20 points in the game. Prior to that, the Buckeyes were on a 11-game winning streak that included wins over Michigan State (twice), Wisconsin, Indiana, and lethal offenses in Iowa State and Arizona in the NCAA tournament. In many respects this team overachieved, yet their hot streak, easy tournament draw, and wide open West bracket left falling short of the Final Four a clear disappointment. Here, I’ll cover some of my lasting thoughts from another season of Buckeye basketball. [Read more...]
Eleven minutes. With 11 minutes to go in their season, the Ohio State Buckeyes woke up out of a coma and started playing. Down 20, they made a valiant comeback effort, closing it to as little as 3 points with 2:48 remaining. However, their disgraceful first half play which included 24% shooting plus a couple of missed defensive rebounds late were too much to overcome as the ninth-seeded Wichita State Shockers stunned the Bucks 70-66 to advance to the Final Four in Atlanta. The loss ends OSU’s season, and it leaves the team and its fans asking what went wrong on the Staples Center floor for a majority of the game. [Read more...]
Two straight games. Two shot clocks turned off with a tie game and the ball in the Buckeyes’ hands. Sean Miller’s Arizona Wildcats weren’t going to give Aaron Craft another clean look at a game-winning jumpshot, and Deshaun Thomas had a defender glued on him in the corner. Without calling a timeout, Thad Matta called a Craft-LaQuinton Ross pick and roll from the sideline. When both defenders collapsed on Craft, the Buckeye point made the right read once again, kicking it to Ross, who buried a NBA-range three ball to give the Buckeyes the lead with two seconds remaining and eventually the win.
It capped off a 14-point second half for Ross, and the sophomore who got a late start as a freshman and next to nothing in terms of playing time last year saved his team for the second straight game. The Buckeyes won 76-73, and they’re going to their second straight Elite 8 after the win in Los Angeles last night. For the second straight game, however, they faced plenty of adversity.
The title says it all. It was a close game. It was a poorly officiated game both ways. In the end, all that matters is that the Ohio State Buckeyes advance. And they do so in spectacular fashion once again. This time Aaron Craft dished to LaQuinton Ross who nailed a long three to secure the victory over Arizona. Elite Eight coming right up.
Over the month of March, The Diff has been all about college basketball. First, it was the bubble odds, then an update of said bubble odds, and most recently, initial tournament odds. With the Buckeyes tipping off in the Sweet 16 tomorrow night in Los Angeles, I’m back with another round of updates today.
On one side of the argument, it was an exciting weekend for upsets and the average college basketball fan. 15 Florida Gulf Coast shocked the world and their jump into the spotlight almost seems like it has to be a Hollywood script. The success of 9 Wichita State, 12 Oregon and 13 La Salle also has been a fun surprise for many, even if their brackets were busted. Which then brings me to the other side of the argument — the success of stat predictions. I warned last week that I’ve never been very good at brackets. And thus far, the stats have been way off. [Read more...]
Two turnovers. Two missed free throws at the front end of 1-and-1s. Four missed free throws total in the second half. A layup that had too much spin on it and spun out.
These are all things that happened to Aaron Craft late in this ballgame. The Twitter crowd was out with its pitchforks and lit torches, ready to strike the Buckeyes’ junior point guard. What was a 13-point lead with six minutes remaining became a 2-point deficit with two minutes to go following a 17-2 flash twister from Iowa State. But, Craft made play after play down the stretch, and the goat horns drawn in pencil were erased by a controversial charge taken, a gritty and-one bucket inside, and the game-winner with 0.5 seconds remaining as Craft waved off Deshaun Thomas and sunk the shot himself to lead his Buckeyes to a 4th straight Sweet 16 in a 78-75 thriller in Dayton. [Read more...]
The NCAA has released an official statement on the controversial charge call from the end of today’s Ohio State-Iowa State third round game in Dayton.
Here is the response from John Adams, NCAA National Coordinator of Men’s Basketball Officiating, that was sent out to the media this afternoon:
“I spoke with the official, and he determined the defender established legal guarding position outside the restricted area prior to the offensive player leaving the floor to start his shot. When asked, the official said he did not see the defender’s foot over the restricted area line. By rule, this is not a reviewable play.”
Moments after this supposed charge was taken by Aaron Craft, he nailed a three-pointer that sent the Buckeyes to the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles. Our friends at SB Nation have an excellent review as well of the detailed nuances behind this NCAA decision.
It was the ultimate “No no no no no no… YES!” shot. Aaron Craft is not known to be a three point shooter. He wasn’t even going to be known as a free throw shooter much as he missed some of those down the stretch of this game. But, in this one time with this moment in front of him with a tie game, Aaron Craft stepped up, waved off his teammates and drained a three point shot with almost no time remaining.
“I think they haven’t played against the style of play like we play. I think they play a lot of teams that like to slow it up, and they can really get into them. Because we pressure so much and we go against it every day in practice, I don’t think it’s something we’ll have a problem with.
Those were the words of Iona guard Lamont “Momo” Jones this week prior to last night’s game. The transfer from Arizona had an air of confidence about him heading into this 15-2 matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes. There’s no doubt that two wins by 15 seeds in last year’s tournament (as well as one yesterday during this game) aided that confidence. It’s a fair argument that Ohio State has only faced a few teams that like to play an up tempo pace. However, that air of confidence was squeezed out of Jones and Iona’s third highest-scoring offense by Aaron Craft and company. Forty minutes later, Jones made just 3-of-14 shots for 9 points and the Buckeyes forced 19 turnovers, scored 29 points off those turnovers, and scored 34 points via the fastbreak as they obliterated the Gaels early in the second half and cruised to a 95-70 victory in their NCAA Tournament opener. [Read more...]
It started four weeks to the day in a hostile Madison environment. The Buckeyes were absolutely smoked by 22, getting their doors blown off from the outset in a 24-6 hole and decimating their Big Ten regular season title hopes (or so we thought). Thad Matta said to his team after that game, “It was embarrassing and we’re not going to let this go. We’re going to beat this drum until you guys realize this can never happen again.” Since then, Ohio State has turned the corner. They’re one of the hottest teams in the country, and after wins against Nebraska and Michigan State, they capped off their weekend with a third win in three days, capturing Matta’s fourth Big Ten Tournament Championship and third in four years as they beat Wisconsin at their own slow-paced game with a 50-43 win.
Flashback to February 24th. The Buckeyes were trailing by six points at the half to the Michigan State Spartans in The Schott. Deshaun Thomas was struggling (1-for-8 shooting), and the Buckeyes needed another scorer to step up their game. Enter Aaron Craft, who scored 17 of his career high 21 points in the second half as he carved up the Spartan defense with patient but effective dribble penetration off the high ball screen. The Buckeyes would go on to win that game by a 68-60 count.
History does repeat itself sometimes. The Buckeyes trailed at the half once again (by one this time). Deshaun Thomas was off with his shot (4-for-13 shooting), and the Buckeyes needed a second scorer to help Thomas. Aaron Craft answered the bell once again in heroic fashion. Eighteen of Craft’s 20 points came in the back-and-forth second half, and the Buckeyes weathered an incredible seven minute field goal drought in the final seven and a half minutes of the game to hold on for a 61-58 victory and advance to the Big Ten Championship Game tomorrow afternoon in Chicago. [Read more...]
A Trey Burke missed layup, a Jordan Morgan tap-back that spun around and rolled off, and a loose ball scamper that killed the clock. Following the miss of two front ends of 1-and-1 free throw trips and the split of a pair before that, the Indiana Hoosiers were able to use a 6-0 run in the final 52 seconds with all points coming from Cody Zeller to stun Michigan in Ann Arbor 72-71, Michigan’s first home loss of the season.
I start with this because it meant everything and nothing in regards to the Ohio State game yesterday. The Buckeyes began the day with a shot at a share of the Big Ten regular season title. They took care of their business earlier in the day. OSU used a balanced attack, led by Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft on offense and Shannon Scott and Craft on defense as they pulled away from Illinois in the second half, winning 68-55. It was an ugly game for most of the way, but the Buckeyes really put the defensive clamps down for stretches, and it was an enjoyable game from that respect, slowing a tournament team with a lot of guard play. With the Michigan loss, Indiana claimed the Big Ten title all for themselves with a 14-4 conference record with Ohio State coming up one game short at 13-5 along with Michigan State. Michigan by virtue of their loss will have to play in day one of the Big Ten tournament against Penn State, while Wisconsin takes the final bye. In the fallout, Ohio State comes up just short of securing a fourth straight conference regular season title, which would have been the first such feat since Michigan State (1998-2001).
While We’re Waiting serves as the early morning gathering of WFNY-esque information for your viewing pleasure. Have something you think we should see? Send it to our tips email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leading off, Michael Citro at Eleven Warriors has a nice write-up on Buckeyes running back Carlos Hyde, who is looking for a huge senior year, “All the skeptics who thought a power running back couldn’t thrive in an Urban Meyer offense were proven completely wrong last season, as Carlos Hyde rumbled for 970 yards and 16 touchdowns on just 185 carries. That’s an average of 5.2 yards per carry against defenses that were mostly designed to stop running plays and ignore passing plays. And power backs don’t get much more powerful than Carlos Hyde.” [Eleven Warriors] [Read more...]
Throughout this season, the Ohio State Buckeyes have had their trials and tribulations on the offensive end of the floor. At times, playing both junior point guard Aaron Craft and sophomore point guard Shannon Scott simultaneously — while ideal on the defensive end — has damaged Ohio State’s halfcourt offensive attack due to a lack of outside shooting from those two.
Tuesday night, on the biggest of Big Ten stages and most hostile of environments, the Buckeyes snagged the signature road win that had narrowly escaped them in both Ann Arbor and East Lansing, pulling away late from the No. 2-ranked Indiana Hoosiers in a 67-58 victory. Craft finished with 15 points and four assists; Scott added eight points and three assists of his own. The two split the team’s eight steals between them, and those led to 16 points off turnovers which gave Ohio State the lift it needed from its supporting cast.
The best part of this one: Their contributions were far from the only key rise-to-the-occasion performances. While Deshaun Thomas’s 18 points led the team (thought he was just 6-of-17 shooting), Sam Thompson added nine first half points and two blocks while Evan Ravenel delivered at both ends, scoring eight points, nabbing six boards, and taking two key charges. I had mentioned the need for two players to rise to the occasion and deliver out of character performances, and the Buckeyes got that and then some. Much like his surprise showing in the must win Michigan State game last year in East Lansing, Ravenel was incredibly clutch, finding himself in the right place for taking the charges by moving his feet and putting in three offensive putbacks by running the floor.