Buckeye Basketball Breakdown: Looking Ahead

Written April 6th, 2012 by Eric

Aaron Craft and the boys are excited for next year, are you?

Lots of places have done an excellent job putting together post-mortems on the Buckeye’s basketball season since the rough loss to Kansas in the Final Four.  In particular, I highly recommend Our Honor Defend‘s player-by-player grade breakdown for the season by Michael, which he completed in three parts.

However, I must admit that during the last week I found myself less looking back at what had happened and more looking forward to what is to come. Perhaps some of that is a defensive mechanism, trying to keep me from realizing what exactly we’re losing. It’s probably also keeping me from analyzing Saturday’s meltdown too closely. I’m fairly certain a deep analysis will cause me to have an aneurysm, so it’s probably best to avoid that.

There’s one thing I know for certain, though, and it is probably the real reason I can’t keep myself from looking far into the future. I am incredibly excited about next year’s basketball team already. I simply cannot wait to see what these kids are going to bring to the table, and there’s already plenty to be excited about.

So, from this incredibly early perspective, I want to take a look at what this basketball team may look like next year. Specifically, we’re going to look at what the starting lineup might look like given what we know today.
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Kansas found success in the second half by getting to the rim off the fast break.

Ohio State and Kansas met for the second time this year, this time on the neutral court of the Superdome in New Orleans. Both teams played tough basketball, but the Buckeyes were unable to maintain their nine point halftime lead, falling to the Jayhawks for the second time 64-62. William Buford’s game high 19 points were not enough to lift the Bucks over Kansas’s Thomas Robinson, who matched Buford with 19. Travis Releford scored a critical 15 for the Jayhawks, including four free throws at the end to seal the game.

Neither team started the game with their heads quite in the right place offensively for the first few possessions. While Kansas did score a quick duece on their first possession, they spent their next seven possessions taking atrocious shots. That was matched by the Buckeyes on the other end of the court early. Only when Lenzelle Smith dropped a three pointer did the Buckeyes settle down and start making better decisions with the basketball, leading to a 7-0 run through about four minutes of play.

Kansas attempted to make early adjustments to try to counter the little OSU run. By moving the ball better, the Jayhawks were able to find better looks at the basket and began to make their looks again. Not surprisingly, Thad Matta reinspired the defense on the subsequent timeout. The pep-talk seemed to work, giving the Buckeyes the necessary intensity to make offense difficult for the Jayhawks.

Much to Buckeye fan’s relief “good” Buford made an appearance in this one. As has been apparent all season, Buford’s shooting is strongly dependent on his early game shots. If he makes good decisions early, like he did today, his shooting is generally strong all game long. If instead his decisions are poor early, his shooting struggles throughout. However, one thing Buford never seems to struggle with is assisting his teammates, playing good defense, and tough rebounding. It was critical, though, that his shots started falling early, allowing him to build his shooting confidence early.
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Pregame Glance: Kansas II

Written March 31st, 2012 by Joe Dexter

Amir Williams is an X factor Tonight.

We’re just hours away from the start of the Final Four! The Ohio State Buckeyes and Kansas Jayhawks will meet in the second game of the day today, tip-off set for 8:49 PM. I still don’t know what’s stranger. The fact that both teams will be playing basketball inside a Superdome, or that the floor that both teams will be playing on is made in the small “unicorporated community” of Amasa – A  small part of Hematite Township in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Though all 250 citizens of the city are upset that either Wisconsin or Michigan State isn’t in the Final Four, they will be among the millions of fans with their eyes fixed on what could be one hell of a Saturday.

According to the folks at the Worldwide Failure Leader, this is the first time since 2005 that all playing on the final weekend of college basketball have finished the year ranked in the top ten in terms of attendance. Yesterday, over 6,000 fans made their way to a football stadium to watch practice (practice man!),

Kicking things off is the inner-state battle between Kentucky and Louisville. AP Player of the Year Anthony Davis and his Wildcat squad might be the most talented squad to take the court in bluegrass blue since the Days of Rick Pitino and Ron Mercer. You know the former Kentucky coach is firing up his guys simply based on how the nation is disrespecting his team as they head into today’s play as nine point underdogs. There is no doubt that the Louisville Cardinals have been put on an island all by themselves by the national media. Nobody has given this team a chance.

Yes, they are heavily over-matched and Kentucky is by far the odds-on favorite to win the whole shebang. But I can’t remember a time when three teams flew this far under the radar heading into the last three games of the year. That in itself should set off some fireworks tonight.

Which means Ohio State fans should expect one heck of a battle in what’s being dubbed the “Most Competitive Game in the Tournament.”

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Amir Williams did some great things to help the Bucks with Sully and Ravs in foul trouble.

The Ohio State Buckeyes and Syracuse Orange met in Boston this evening to decide who would represent the East Region in the Final Four. After a tight, hard-fought battle, the Buckeyes succeeded in picking up the 77-70 victory over the 1-seeded Syracuse Orange. Every single Buckeye contributed a key piece to this tough victory, but Jared Sullinger led all scorers with 19 points and 7 rebounds. He was followed closely by Lenzelle Smith’s 18 points, most scored in the 2nd half with the game coming down to the wire. On Syracuse’s side of the ball Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine combined for 29 points and a pair of rebounds.

Both teams started off hot attacking the paint with extreme aggression. That may have been a surprise to many who suspected the Buckeyes were going to have to use the long ball to attack the Syracuse 2-3 zone. However, as the Bucks had demonstrated against Cincinnati, they had learned well the methods of handling the 2-3 under the basket. Those lessons were proven valuable again as OSU was able to misdirect, and pass around, the Syracuse zone.

Unfortunately, Jared Sullinger was forced to sit with 13 minutes with two quick fouls. His second foul seemed to be a bit ticky-tack, but with the game being an intense back-and-forth affair, it was understandable that the refs were playing things conservatively. Thankfully, the Buckeyes have been forced on many occasions this season to play without him, which has been to the benefit of Ravenel’s development. He certainly put those skills on display tonight, demonstrating that he could handle the quality interior presence of the Orange.

With OSU’s best big sitting on the bench Syracuse seemed to press their attack into the paint even more. By doing so, they were able to force Evan Ravenel into a quick pair of fouls of his own. Matta, of course, responded by bringing Amir Williams into the game. Ultimately, the move hurt the Buckeyes. While Amir Williams is a very talented player, he is by no means close to a polished product. It was clear from his play on offense that he doesn’t understand as well as Ravenel and Sullinger how to attack the 2-3, nor does he move around nearly as effectively in the paint as the other bigs.
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Pregame Glance: Syracuse Orange

Written March 23rd, 2012 by Eric

Jim Boeheim has his team playing well despite missing a key piece of their defense.

The Syracuse Orange, under Jim Boeheim since the beginning of time, have had a surprisingly difficult path to the Elite Eight this year.  The Orange have struggled against all three of their opponents (at least at times), but have managed to scrape out victories in each game, often in the last seconds.

First up was the 16-seeded Bulldogs of UNC-Asheville.  Coming into the tournament Ken Pomeroy excitedly told everyone that this might be the year for the fabled 16/1 upset.  We very nearly got it from the Bulldogs, as they carried a lead against the Orange for much of the game, until a back and forth affair (with some questionable rules interpretation issues) ended up in Syracuse’s favor 72-65.

The Orange followed that win with a more lopsided victory over the Kansas State Wildcats.  Despite the 75-59 final score, the Wildcats had the game within one at the half and even led briefly early in the second.  Syracuse, however, had the legs to overpower the underdog Wildcats through the second half, and slowly ran away with the game to end their first weekend of play.

Last night, however, was a much different story.  The Wisconsin Badgers, a tough hard-nosed team out of the Big Ten (with whom I’m sure many of us are familiar) gave the Orange the fight of their life.  While Syracuse did a good job of keeping the Badgers out of the paint, they were unable to stop Bo Ryan’s boys from dropping 42 points from beyond the arc on 51.9% three point shooting.  Outside shooting is one fool-proof way of beating the Orange, and Wisconsin almost managed it.  However, a general weakness in the paint on both ends of the court, something that Wisconsin has struggled with all season long, doomed the Badgers.  They were unable to get a quality last second shot, and were totally ineffectual playing defense inside against Syracuse’s bigs.

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Pregame Glance: Cincinnati Bearcats

Written March 21st, 2012 by Eric

Ohio State's Jerry Lucas shoots over Cincinnati's Paul Hogue in the first of two National Title matches.

For two straight seasons in 1961 and 1962 the Buckeyes and Bearcats squared off in the National Title game following Ohio State’s first and only National Championship. Both years the Bearcats got the better of the Buckeyes, winning their only two basketball national titles in the NCAA Tournament Era. This game marks the first time these two teams have met in the NCAA tournament since that game in 1962, a historical clash of titans occurring far earlier in the tournament than their lofty history would prefer.

The Cincinnati Bearcats have had a successful season this year, earning their second tournament bid in two years and working their way to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001. During the season the Bearcats have notched impressive victories over: Syracuse in the Big East Tournament, twice against Georgetown – once away, once in the Big East Tournament – and Marquette at home. While they have not been a particularly consistent team during the season, they performed well enough to catch the eye of the selection committee.

Cinci has not had a particularly easy path to the Sweet 16. While their first opponent was a very young 11th-seeded Texas squad, the Longhorns surged and nearly caught the overconfident Bearcats after scoring a pathetic 2 points in the first 10 minutes and 15 seconds of the game. Cincinnati found themselves in a dog fight over the last ten minutes of the game, after watching Texas slowly and inexorably climb back into the game, but were able to pull out the 65-59 victory to advance.

In the Round of 32 the Bearcats were paired up with a hot Florida State Seminoles team fresh off an ACC Tournament Championship win over UNC the week before. The Seminoles were clearly favored in the game, but the Bearcats were much better than many expected. Both teams clawed for the advantage throughout the game, never achieving more than a 5 point lead before the end of the game. In the end, the Bearcats had succeeded at gaining the upper-hand and earned the opportunity to face the second-seeded Buckeyes in Boston.
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In Saturday’s round three match-up in the NCAA Tournamant against the Gonzaga Bulldogs, The Ohio State Buckeyes met their opponent at the corral with enough ammunition for an good old fashioned shootout.

In the first ten minutes, the game saw 6 ties and 8 lead changes.  The Buckeyes turned over the ball six times. Yet they were able to keep the game within four  early and weather the storm throughout in the 73-66 victory, advancing to the sweet sixteen, where they will take on the winner of Florida State and Cincinnati  (who play at 9:40 on Sunday) next Thursday.

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Pregame Glance: Gonzaga Bulldogs

Written March 17th, 2012 by Eric

Mark Few has been here many times before. He'll have the Bulldogs ready.

The Buckeyes have advanced to the Round of 32 for the third time in three years. This time around their opponent is the 7th seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs, a team that has been to the dance many times in the last decade.

Coach Mark Few is one of the only coaches in the country to regularly put together 20 win seasons. Since he first joined Gonzaga in 1999, his first Head Coaching gig, his teams have not won fewer than 23 games in a season. He and Thad Matta are the only coaches with upwards of a decade of straight 20 win seasons, making this game a particularly interesting matchup of coaching minds.

Gonzaga has also never failed to make the NCAA Tournament while under Few, but have never advanced further than the Sweet 16. The last two seasons have seen the ‘Zags only win their first game in the tournament before being knocked out. That’s a streak the Buckeyes would obviously like to continue this season.

The Bulldogs are surprisingly led in scoring by a freshman this season. Guard Kevin Pangos (6-1, 180) out of Ontario, Canada, is averaging nearly 14 points per game and 3 rebounds. He shoots a cool 40.7% from beyond the arc in 32 minutes per game and will most likely be Aaron Craft’s defensive assignment. He’s more than a scorer, though, and is skilled at feeding his teammates in good positions to score. He’s also good at protecting the basketball, losing control less than twice per game.
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