July 28, 2014

Aaron Craft, the senior leader every team wants and only one has

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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.

[Read more...]

Down the Gopher hole: Bucks reeling after third straight loss

thompsonminnyThe Michigan State loss was an understandable loss because of the hostile Breslin Center environment against an experienced top five squad. Buckeye fans were comforted by the valiant comeback and forcing overtime, nearly pulling off the stunner. Then, there was the Iowa game Sunday. In the first major home game of the conference season, Iowa was no slouch to be certain with a large starting lineup and the fourth best offense1. The Buckeyes just don’t lose at home that often, and after sustaining early scorching of the nets by the Hawkeyes, it looked like they were poised to win the game after taking a 9-point lead about halfway through the second half. However, they unraveled due to turnovers and lost their second straight contest. With that rough week behind them, the Buckeyes headed to The Barn last night to take on the Golden Gophers. What ensued was one of the worst efforts from a Thad Matta squad in years. LaQuinton Ross was the only Buckeye consistently capable of offense, and the team’s defense and rebounding failed them due to smaller lineups and poor coaching decisions. Minnesota stunned the Bucks with a 63-53 home win, and the Buckeyes have now lost three straight for the first time in nearly five years and eviscerated any realistic chance at the conference title just five games into the gauntlet of Big Ten basketball.

It is time to slam the panic button. [Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. That is in terms of adjusted efficiency according to KemPom.com []

One loss….And I am officially sold

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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.

[Read more...]

While We’re Waiting… Who is Edwin Baker?

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 tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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Hey, here’s one good thing from the latest Browns loss: “A year after being a 7th round pick by the San Diego Chargers, former Michigan State running back Edwin Baker was reunited with his former head coach Norv Turner. The Browns released Caleb Hanie and signed the young back off of the Houston Texans practice squad; a place they have gone to earlier in this season. Baker seemed excited to be back with Turner and was looking forward to get an opportunity in Cleveland and back in this offense. In his first game of his career, Baker ran for 38 yards on 8 carries while catching 4 passes for 46 yards and his first NFL touchdown.” [Peter Smith/Dawg Pound Daily] [Read more...]

NBA News: Sacramento hires Chris Jent as assistant coach

Ohio State Buckeyes assistant and former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Chris Jent is heading to the West Coast.

The Sacramento Kings have officially hired the 43-year-old Jent as an assistant coach, the team announced yesterday. Previously this offseason, the Kings tabbed former Cavs assistant Michael Malone as their head coach and it had been rumored for the bulk of the last week that he was targeting Jent to join his staff.

“Adding Chris to our coaching staff provides the team with a coach who will remain loyal to the mission of returning this franchise to prominence,” Malone said in the team press release. “He’s experienced at the professional and collegiate levels, is extremely well-prepared, and has made a significant contribution in every stop along his coaching career.”

An OSU alumnus, Jent’s professional career was not that noteworthy. The 6-foot-7 left-handed forward played just six regular season and 11 playoff games in the NBA, yet won a championship alongside the Houston Rockets in 1993-94. He had much more success overseas, where he played in Australia, Italy, Spain and Greece.

He was then an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2003-04 followed by a year with the Orlando Magic in 2004-05, when he finished the season as an interim head coach. After being dismissed by Orlando, he joined the Cavaliers organization as their Director of Player Development in November 2006. By 2009, he added on the title of assistant coach under head coach Mike Brown.

Jent gained public notoriety for his work as LeBron James’ “personal shooting coach.” In their four seasons together, James improved his effective field goal percentage each year, thus leading to the increasing Ohio appreciation for Jent’s work. He also worked notably with J.J. Hickson and was the final remaining coach from the Brown era.

Then, shockingly, Jent left to join Thad Matta’s crew in Columbus in the summer of 2011. It must have been a heck of a recruiting push to then bring Jent elsewhere, as all public indications seemed to show that he was thrilled to be at Ohio State, where both he and his wife graduated.

Now, he’ll work on developing the young players on the Kings, as highlighted by the oft-rumored star DeMarcus Cousins.

[Related: DeMarcus Cousins rumors fading, so what’s next for Cavs?]

NCAA tourney primer with Kirk and TD – WFNY Podcast – 2013-03-20

WFNY Podcast LogoThe connection was a bit bad for a few moments as we all tried to figure out who was talking next, but it all got smoothed out pretty quickly. Kirk and TD are two of the more passionate NCAA hoops fans on the site and they wanted to lay out some storylines for the tourney.

  • Quick talk about Phil Dawson’s departure
  • TD and Kirk talk about Ohio State’s number 2 seeding
  • TD talks about Kansas and their draw
  • Which regions are the most brutal?
  • What are the most entertaining opening round games?
  • TD’s final four prediction
  • Kirk’s final four prediction
  • TD and his recommendation / final words on Ubaldo Jimenez

[Read more...]

NCAA Tournament: Ohio State’s Path To Atlanta

Deshaun ThomasRejoice Ohio State fans. Not only is your team playing its best basketball at the right time, but the NCAA Tournament committee rewarded them with perhaps its best draw in years. Fresh off of their Big Ten Tournament Championship in Chicago, Thad Matta’s Buckeyes are riding high right into the greatest event in all of American sports.

It is amazing to think about how far this Ohio State team has come when you look back at their midseason swoon. This was a team that was throttled at Illinois by 19 in January and destroyed at Wisconsin by 22 in February, in the midst of losing three of four. However, since that debacle in Madison, the Bucks have won eight straight, six of those coming against NCAA Tournament teams, including a road win over #1 seed Indiana.

The Buckeyes are peaking. With a stroke of magic, they were sent out West with a path to the Final Four as good as anyone has. As many of you know, I am Kansas graduate and I would gladly give up our number one seed for the two seed in the West with Ohio State’s draw.  [Read more...]

While We’re Waiting…Kyrie earns respect, OSU/Wisc, Bourn notes

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 tips@waitingfornextyear.com.

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“”This weekend was just basically about earning everybody’s respect and getting a chance for people to see me who don’t usually see me,” Irving said. “We’re not nationally televised. This weekend is to show my face to the fans and get everybody in the league acclimated to my face.” [Ingram/USAToday] [Read more...]

ESPN: Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas needs help

In his quest to discuss the most over-worked and over-relient players in NCAA Division I men’s basketball, Basketball Prospectus’ John Gasaway has Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas front and center.

Gasaway, in a piece penned for ESPN.com, states that while Thomas’ growth over the last three years has been nothing short of brilliant, the way That Matta lives and dies by the 6-foot-7-inch forward is everything but.

Let’s get the obvious choice out of the way at the top, shall we? The arc charted by Thomas in his three seasons at OSU has been remarkable. Not only did the McDonald’s All-American come off the bench as a freshman, he actually didn’t come off the bench all that much, averaging just 14 minutes a game. Now look: Thomas is always on the floor, and he takes 32 percent of the offense’s shots during those abundant minutes.

At least when LaQuinton Ross is in the game Thomas has a partner in assertive shooting, but Ross averages just 19 minutes per contest. We’ve seen that a rotation of Thomas, a half-timer like Ross and six additional role players has not been very effective.

In the losses to Kansas and Illinois, Ohio State scored just 0.83 points per possession. Granted, that’s an extreme number that won’t recur. The Jayhawks aren’t exactly chopped liver on D, and on paper, this is still a pretty good OSU offense. But against top competition — the kind the Buckeyes will see quite often in Big Ten play — this offense is questionable because Thomas can’t do it all by himself.

Past Thomas, Matta’s rotation is filled with players who are efficient in the narrow sense, but one or two of those guys — whether it’s Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. or someone else — need to be efficient while carrying a bigger chunk of the offense.

The knock on Thomas over his Freshman season was his willingness (and desire) to take every shot imaginable. Unfortunately, given the position the Buckeyes are currently in, it is Thomas who is now counted on to do just that. Thomas is, per ESPN’s Chad Ford, currently the 65th-ranked prospect for the 2013 NBA Draft.

[Related: Craft-tastic! Buckeye Point Guard Returns To Form In West Lafayette]

Buckeyes Get Blasted By Illini, Have Identity Crisis

Thirteen points for about the first 14 minutes of the game. 11 first half turnovers and 16 points off those turnovers for the opponent. Out-rebounded by 10 against a team who was severely out-rebounded in their last few games. The Ohio State Buckeyes went into Champaign yesterday afternoon in their first real Big Ten test and got absolutely flattened by former OSU assistant and OU head coach John Groce 74-55. It wasn’t just the blowout that was disheartening, but the affirmation that the Buckeyes are going to struggle to score enough points against not just the teams like Duke and Kansas but the top half of the gauntlet Big Ten conference.

I expected this to be a tough game for the Buckeyes. Perhaps, I even expected them to drop this one, but it was the way they essentially failed to compete in their first high-profile weekend game on the Big Ten slate that has me questioning a lot. Sure, the Buckeyes went through two extended scoring droughts in this game (scoring 13 points in the first 13:50 of the first half and 6 points in the first 9:45 of the second half), but it was their carelessness with the basketball and porous and uncharacteristic defense that has me scratching my head currently. [Read more...]

WFNY Top 10 Cleveland Sports Stories of 2012: #10 Buckeyes March To Final Four in New Orleans

2012 was one crazy year in the wild wacky world of Cleveland Sports. Some would tell you 2012 was as bad as it has ever been here. As the year comes to a close, like we have done the last four years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the 10 biggest sports stories affecting our local sports scene. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one.

10. The Ohio State Buckeyes Reach the Final Four

I’ll always remember the 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes as an immensely talented team that had all the tools to go the distance and nearly did so. Your tenth biggest story of the year is Thad Matta leading the Buckeyes to their second Final Four under him and the 11th in school history. The Buckeyes got there by capturing a number two seed after a 25-6 regular season that included a share of the Big Ten regular season title with Michigan and Michigan State. They also reached the Big Ten Championship game, falling to Michigan State in their third matchup of the season 68-64 after having beaten them in East Lansing just seven days prior to claim their share of the conference crown.

The Buckeyes dispatched of 15th seeded Loyola Maryland in the tourney opener with relative ease 78-59. Deshaun Thomas led the team in scoring with a career-high 31 points, the start of what would be a magical tournament for both Deshaun and the Bucks.

The next day, I had this to say:
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WFNY Podcast – 2012-12-21 – TD and Kirk talk Kansas vs. Ohio State and college vs. NBA

I got to hang out, drink some decaf and just moderate this badboy. TD is a Kansas grad, Kirk is an Ohio State grad, and they’ll both be attending the matchup this Saturday between the Buckeyes and Jayhawks in Columbus. So, we got everyone on the line and talked about the matchup. Then I started poking the bear to figure out if the regular season in college basketball is worthless and how it compares to the NBA.

  • Ohio State’s early returns and what it means for this Saturday
  • The Buckeyes’ depth and how deep Matta’s rotation goes this year
  • Kansas’ roster and rotation
  • The first real road test for Kansas this season
  • How meaningful is the college regular season?
  • The Final Four, while entertaining, does it really crown the best basketball team?
  • Does it render the regular season useless?
  • Bigtime college matchups vs. TNT and other national NBA matchups
  • Making TD an NBA fan again by drafting Kansas players :-)
  • Grudge Match

[Read more...]

Ohio State Basketball Will Play In Aircraft Carrier Game

The Ohio State men’s and women’s basketball teams will play in the second Carrier Classic this fall in Charleston, South Carolina. The first game took place this past November on Veterans Day, with North Carolina and Michigan State playing aboard the USS Carl Vinson in San Diego. Now it appears the Buckeyes have been tabbed to play in the second game, which will be on the USS Yorktown docked in Charleston.

According to Bob Baptist, both the men’s and women’s teams will play in a doubleheader on November 9th. The men’s team is finalizing the details for a game against Marquette, while the women’s team is set to play Notre Dame. The Connecticut men’s team was initially reported as commitments for the unique event, but apparently that fell through and the Buckeyes became a possibility. Thad Matta spoke with Baptist about the amazing opportunity:

“Obviously, we are excited,” men’s coach Thad Matta said. “This is a rare opportunity for our student-athletes. We are honored to play before the men and women who protect our country.”

It will definitely be a cool way to start the college hoops season for a new-look Buckeyes team.

[RelatedOSU Basketball: Sibert, Weatherspoon Transferring]

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]

Jared Sullinger turning pro after sophomore season

After a move the surprised a few people in returning to Ohio State for his sophomore season, Jared Sullinger has decided to make himself available in the NBA draft.

Sullinger and Buckeyes coach Thad Matta are expected to appear at a news conference at 2:15 p.m. ET Wednesday at Value City Arena, on the Ohio State campus.

Short of winning the whole thing, it is hard to argue with Sullinger’s resumé for the NBA. Sullinger nearly averaged a double double in back-to-back years for Ohio State while playing over 30 minutes per game.

What remains to be seen is what path Sullinger’s NBA career will take as a 6’9″ power forward who seems somewhat undersized at times. When WFNY has discussed the topic, scenarios from LSU’s Glen Davis, to Duke’s Elton Brand and Carlos Boozer have all come up as potential NBA ceilings. There is little doubt though that Sullinger probably would have gone higher in last year’s draft than he will in the upcoming one, but we’ll see.

[Related: Jayhawks end OSU's NCAA journey]

Buckeyes Have A Tough, But Navigable Road

They didn’t meet expectations in the regular season or in the conference tournament. They’ve accumulated seven losses and more close calls because of a lack of offensive consistency. This team lacks an identity at times, and their depth remains an issue. When they run up against someone that can guard Jared Sullinger 1-on-1, they’ll probably be going home. In the last two tournaments, Matta’s teams have failed to meet the expectations of their high seeds, and those teams had far more upperclassmen leadership. Their three-point shooting is streaky at best, and they do not get the ball into the post with enough regularity or ease. The Buckeyes won’t make it past the Sweet 16.

This team is hitting its stride. They’ve won 4 out of the last 5, and they needed to execute in two straight games with late game heroics to gain a share of the Big Ten regular season conference crown. They have 7 wins against ranked teams. They’re hungry after missing out on the Big Ten Conference Tournament championship, and they’ve had to work a little harder for everything, an edge that other Matta top teams haven’t had. Few teams have a three-man scoring punch quite like Sullinger, Thomas, and Buford. They’re the most defensively efficient team in the nation, and they defend without fouling. As many shortcomings as they’ve had on offense, a lot of the frustration has come from not knowing who will be the go-to guy during their midseason identity crisis. They still rank 7th in offensive efficiency, and they now collectively know that their team will operate through Jared Sullinger. This team may just win it all.

I figured I’d start with my two conflicting voices, as this is pretty much what’s been going on in my head not just since the bracket was unveiled, but in the weeks leading up to it when I contemplated how far I thought the Buckeyes could go in March Madness. I’ve been saying it almost since day one this season: this Ohio State team has the talent to win the national championship. As the season progressed, however, issues with consistency and leadership led me to believe the Bucks had too many holes on offense to put up six strong showings in a row. Somewhere along that line, William Buford was going to have a bad shooting night, and the Bucks would be going home. But, the recent run to a share of the Big Ten title and trip to the Big Ten Championship Game have gotten the team’s mind right and rekindled my hopes to a certain extent. [Read more...]

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...]

Buckeye Basketball Brief: Michigan State stands in Bucks’ way to Big Ten Title

On Saturday, the Buckeyes suffered through their worst offensive display in the Thad Matta era, shooting just 26% as they stumbled on their way to a 58-48 loss to the Michigan State Spartans at Value City Arena. With their home winning streak of 39 straight history, what the Buckeyes are doing offensively is increasingly fooling no one, and what they’re doing on defense is now being dissected. In short, despite their talent and potential, the cracks are starting to show, and the Bucks are in danger of coming away with nothing in the Big Ten hardware category.

Former walk-on cult hero Mark Titus provided great inside information at Grantland into Thad Matta’s strategy when it comes to defending the pick-and-roll, and if there’s anything to take away, it’s that the Buckeyes change it up an awful lot on the defensive end. It’s no wonder that the communication required, the personnel on those high ball screens changing, and the opponents’ scouting reports are all mashing together inside some of the Buckeyes’ heads. The true weak spot for the Buckeyes is the four spot, because Deshaun Thomas does not defend the ball screens particularly well, and when he gets in foul trouble, Evan Ravenel has an even more difficult time because he is often guarding a smaller, more perimeter-oriented player. [Read more...]

Penn State No Match For Buckeyes On Their Home Floor

With a Penn State team coming to Value City Arena sitting at the bottom of the conference at just 2-6, not having beat Ohio State in their last 16 tries, it would have been easy for OSU to look ahead to their showdown with co-Big Ten leader Michigan on Sunday afternoon. Instead, the Buckeyes continued their Midwest tour of lockdown defense as they stifled the Nittany Kitties, holding PSU to 31% shooting, on their way to a 78-54 demolition. While Penn State was in way over their head, the Buckeyes used this contest to work on some issues that have been plaguing them in the first half of the Big Ten slate.

For starters, the Bucks have struggled at times with breaking zone defenses, upon which opponents have increasingly relied. This has been mainly due to their step back in terms of three-point shooting prowess from last year. In the first half, though, it was an offensive coming out party for Aaron Craft, who instead used dribble penetration to slice through the Penn State 2-3 zone. The sophomore point attacked the foul line and the wings, the weak spots of a 2-3, scoring all 11 of his points in the first half as he made all four shots he attempted, including a 35-foot lob to Sam Thompson that turned into a made three-pointer. Another checkpoint for Craft is turnovers, and while the team had 13, Aaron was responsible for just one in 22 minutes. [Read more...]

Mullens: If I Could Go Back, I Would’ve Transfered From Ohio State

To tell you the truth, if I could go back, I would’ve transfered out of Ohio State and went to Ohio [University]. The coach that I committed to [John Groce] left OSU and became head coach at OU. I truly believe, had I done that, I wou’dlve stayed in school for another year or so, but that’s not what happened. I don’t regret my decision. I’m a strong believer in ‘everything happens for a reason.’ God has put me where he wants me.

- Charlotte Bobcats center Byron (“BJ”) Mullens on his one-year stint with The Ohio State Buckeyes and head coach Thad Matta. After being acquired for a second-round draft pick, Mullens — drafted in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft —  is in the midst of his best season as a professional, averaging 12.4 points and 5.4 rebounds in 23 minutes per game.

[Related: Ohio State, Basketball School?]

(Source: Trade Street Presents via Chris Littmann)