The Ohio State men’s basketball team is on the bubble of the NCAA tournament and it could burst at any moment possibly sending them to the NIT. When was the last time you heard that from a Thad Matta squad? I believe it was the 07-08 squad that failed to make it to the big dance that year (NIT Champs 08). We are talking about a six year stretch that has included 2 Sweet Sixteen appearances, an Elite Eight, and a Final Four appearance.
Is it to early to panic? Yes and No
Lets take a look at Ohio State’s schedule so far and compare quality wins and bad losses since these are things the committee will look at. The Buckeyes current RPI is 56 not good. Quality wins: None, they had shots mind you but losing to Louisville, North Carolina, Indiana and Iowa are showing you can’t play with tournament teams. Bad losses: Thankfully none and hopefully there won’t be any. The Buckeyes don’t need to win out their rest of the games right now to be in the Big Dance but they more than likely need to beat Maryland, Wisconsin and Indiana to get a quality win. Sad to say that Thad can easily win 20 games again this season and could be on outside looking in.
Going through looking at the stats and were the Buckeyes rank in the B1G through their first 6 conference games you would be hard pressed to believe that they are currently sitting at 3-3. Defensively the Buckeyes are #1 in blocks, #2 in steals, #5 in total rebounds (#4 in offensive and #3 in defensive). Have to admit the rebound stat really wasn’t what I was expecting to see since I seem to always be yelling at the TV for the Buckeyes to box out and why does the opponent seem to always get so many second chance shots.
Offensively the Buckeyes #2 in points per game, #1 field goal percentage, #3 at 3 point shot percentage while they are #5 in attempts made and #4 in attempts. They need serious work on the free throw line though, #9 in the B1G averaging 70.3 percent from the charity stripe. The Buckeyes are #3 in assists and #9 in turnovers (#11 at 11.4 per game) which are good things.
So Whats Wrong
Some say its playing a zone defense (tell Syracuse it doesn’t work) some say its leadership, others say its youth. I say its a combination of everything. I don’t see that much communication between the players out there on the court, every time you see a busted play on defense they are standing around looking at each other wondering who blew what assignment. The switch on pick and rolls are one of the biggest areas I see the lack of communication and then there is a guy for a wide open shot. The leaders like Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, and Amir Williams seems to be there at times but a player like Williams hasn’t taken that role and asserted himself. In my opinion Williams can be one of the most dominate forces in the league if he played with passion constantly. There are games you wish Thad would bench him for the whole game after seeing some of the stuff he pulls especially in big games. Graduate transfer Anthony Lee claimed when he came to Columbus if he was on the squad last season the Buckeyes wouldn’t have been knocked out by Dayton. After watching Lee play this season I wonder if he has any speed but out of control. He is another that should be a leader but when he gets out on the floor which is the third option after Williams and McDonald he seems to play like a bull in a china shop. D’Angelo Russell is a kid with great talent but he has a constancy issue himself at times. Others need to step up and help Russell is easy thing to say when its the whole team who is inconsistent at best offensively.
Either the Buckeyes aren’t fired up enough for the big games or too fired up not sure but the coaching staff needs to figure out a rotation that will work best and quickly. Defensively I am not against the zone but I am against players not communicating on that side of the ball, moving together as a unit (I’m picturing them practicing while having a string connected to each other), keeping your hands up (remember the movie Hoosiers? Its true in real life too). and for the love of god box someone out.
I will leave you with the final thoughts of this rambling man. Is it to early to panic again yes and no its mid January and the Buckeyes are 14-5(3-3) with no quality wins. Can this be turned around, Yes. D’Angelo Russell ready to go pro? In my opinion no needs at least one more year. Will the Buckeyes make the tournament? Thad Matta’s the coach and his track record says yes.