For a team that normally struggles to even think about making it to the Big Dance in March, Northwestern has been a thorn in the Buckeyes side for a while now. Last year, it was the 75-73 nail-biter. Early this season, Northwestern practically limped into Columbus and almost ran away with the improbable upset. A late run prevented an embarrassment of epic proportions.
So Bill Carmody brings his healthier Wildcats against Ohio State this evening, (7 PM, ESPN2) looking to finally get the B1G upset is so deserves.
Northwestern does a lot of things that give Ohio State trouble: long, patient, drawn-out offensive possessions that chew up clock and wait for the defese to make a mistake, allowing for easy baskets off of back-cuts and screens. It happened time and again in the last meeting and a deeper team this time should be able to execute their offense and frustrate Ohio State defense.
Ohio State, for its part, needs to turn this into a track meet. Northwestern isn’t build for transition defense and Ohio State is at its best when it’s running the floor, looking for easy baskets on fast breaks and steals by the solid back court play of Scott and Craft.
This should also be a good chance to Deshaun to “right the ship”. He’s clearly been feeling the pressure to be the man and it’s showing in some of his shot selection and his tendency to shoot the ball early in the shot clock or while double-teamed. Craft proved on Sunday that he is able to bear the mantle of the “second option” for whatever that means. He can certainly get to the rim against Northwestern and should be able to continue his contributions on the scoreboard.
Last time I previewed the Northwestern game, I chuckled to think it was going to be anything but a blowout. Now having seen another top B1G team go down in horrible, horrible flames, I’m not making that mistake twice. I still think the Buckeyes should win (and win easily), I would not be surprised to see this turn into another 51-54 slugfest that comes down to the end.
(One more time for Google Juice: Epic Failure)