April 18, 2014

Buckeyes beat Marquette in first early season test

smithjrmarqOne 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...]

Smith Jr. Helps Bucks Survive Off Night In Lincoln

lenzelledrivenebNebraska is just 11-12 and 2-8 in the Big Ten conference this season. Still, if there’s one sentence that I’ve said in about every article since New Year’s, it’s that “winning on the road in the Big Ten isn’t easy”. The Buckeyes nearly fell into that trap with cold shooting and a lazy closeout as the Huskers got as close as five with just under three minutes remaining, but Lenzelle Smith Jr’s surprise 21 points proved to be enough to survive a 39% shooting clip in a 63-56 win in Lincoln.

The biggest knock against Nebraska is that lack of a takeover, star power player that demands the ball and overwhelming defensive attention, and that came in to play late. But, they’re a scrappy bunch, one that has hung with other good Big Ten teams. In a stretch of four straight games, they lost to Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Wisconsin by only a combined 40 points. They too held those opponents into the mid-sixties in points (except Wisconsin, who scored just 47, probably by their own doing more than Nebraska’s). [Read more...]

Buckeyes Handle Huskers In Big Ten Opener

In what is shaping up to be an absolute gauntlet of a Big Ten conference slate for the Ohio State Buckeyes this season, game one was not much of a test. The Buckeyes struggled a little on offense early against the Nebraska 2-3 zone, but their defense, athleticism, and superior talent eventually fueled a 70-44 blowout in Value City Arena. The Buckeyes were led by Deshaun Thomas’s 22 points as Deshaun outscored the entire Cornhusker team in the first half 18-17.

Nebraska started cold shooting the basketball and truly never recovered. The Bucks sprinted out to a 11-3 lead as Nebraska hit just one of its first six shots. In fact, the Huskers’ lack of offensive prowess made sure this game was never in doubt. As a team, they shot 30% in addition to a poor 6-of-21 from beyond the arc. They also only split eight trips to the foul line, a sign that the Buckeyes were playing the tough, smothering brand of defense that they’re becoming known for the last several seasons under Thad Matta. Some of the noteworthy efforts on the end of that floor included Aaron Craft’s 3 steals along with defending opposing point Ray Gallegos to 4-of-18 shooting and 4-of-15 from three point range. New starting center Amir Williams also blocked four shots to go with 8 points and 7 rebounds in just 18 minutes. I think Thad made the right decision in replacing the senior Evan Ravenel, who is much better suited for coming off the bench, with the sophomore Williams, who is desperately needed due to his shotblocking ability and frontcourt length. [Read more...]

Deshaun Thomas Announces Return to Ohio State Basketball Team

The Ohio State University formally announced today that forward Deshaun Thomas will return next year for his junior season for the men’s basketball team. Thomas, a 6-foot-7 starter, blossomed in February and March for the Buckeyes on the team’s path to the Final Four. He is expected to be a key offensive option for head coach Thad Matta next year after sophomore forward Jared Sullinger announced his departure for the NBA earlier this week.

Thomas averaged 15.9 points on 52 percent shooting with 5.4 rebounds in starting all 39 games this past season. He averaged 19.2 and 7.4 during the final 13 games of the season. However, he struggled with just 9 points and 4 rebounds in OSU’s national semifinal loss to Kansas on March 31, his first single-digit scoring game since a Feb. 11 loss to Michigan State.

Senior guard William Buford is the other notable departure from this year’s team. Also returning next season will be two other starters, guards Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. The Buckeyes are expected to begin the season ranked in the top 25, but likely not in the top 5.

Source: [Ohio State athletics]

The Buckeyes March Forecast: Cloudy

Note before reading this…. I don’t consider last night’s thrashing of Illinois any indication of a Buckeye turnaround. The Illini are a sinking ship who are playing like they can’t wait for the season to be over.  

College Basketball starts in November. The National Championship Game in New Orleans is played on April 1st. It doesn’t seem long compared to the NBA, but the way teams evolve over the course of a season, you can make a case that it’s actually three seasons in one; Pre-conference, which is essentially November through the end of the year, Conference, which goes January through the first weekend in March, and Conference Tournament time, which gives every team in the country (not playing in the Ivy League) one more shot to get to the big dance in Mid-March.

Things change. Roles are defined. Rotations come together. Players step forward while others regress. Injuries take place. Some teams grow into prime contenders as the season moves into late February. I’m afraid that one team in particular had that championship look in the pre-conference season and into mid-January, but over the last month has moved in the wrong direction: the Ohio State Buckeyes. [Read more...]