Pregame Glance: B1G Tourney Quarterfinals vs. Purdue

Written March 9th, 2012 by Joe Dexter

The Buckeyes get their March Madness on tonight, as a top seed in the Big dance might just “boil down” to tonight’s key match-up with Purdue at 9 PM ET on Big Ten Network. Paul Keels and Ron Stokes will have the call on the Ohio State Radio Network, as well as online.

What’s in store for tonight on the hardwood?

For the Buckeyes, it’s a tournament championship or bust. Just ask William Buford who has been to three straight championship games. His 14 points per game in Big Ten tournament games is a true testament of what he’s meant to the Buckeyes in post season play. Thad Matta’s club has six straight wins in the precursor to the pantheon of college basketball.  Without a doubt,  this team has been through it’s challenges past few years. Of course there is the overtime thriller last year against Northwestern in the tournament quarterfinals. How about the sword in the heart that  Evan Turner turned in against the rival house, as the last breath of  hope for a tournament championship waited in the wings.

For every success story though is a setback.

One miscue, and it’s over. You don’t have time to lose focus. All that matters is what’s ahead of you. March Madness and tournament play is like a pit fight to the death. It doesn’t matter if you’re more athletic, stronger, or have more speed. In a split second, anyone can take your legs from under you.

And follow it up with a dagger that takes your life.

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Aaron Craft named B1G Defensive Player of the Year

Written March 5th, 2012 by Joe Dexter

Anyone who has watched Aaron Craft do his thing on the court in his first two seasons as an Ohio State Buckeye knows just how much defense matters to the most aggressive yet intelligent guard in the Big Ten Conference. Whether it be stopping the best distributor, putting a stop to the opposing team’s leading scorer, or creating fast break points by ballhawkin’ and stealing the basketball at mid court — any fan of the defensive side of basketball can appreciate the play of the Findlay native.

Yes, even those bums up north (If they are smart enough to comprehend the game of basketball).

Anyways, (Sorry wanted to get my required bashing in early) it was no surprise that when the Big Ten Conference announced it’s end of the season awards, that Aaron Craft was selected by the coaches as the conference defensive player of the year.

Craft, who averaged 2.4 steals per game, ended the season on back to back 4 steal performances. His 75 total thefts are the second highest in a season in school history. Despite being the only unanimous selection to the All-B1G defensive team, Craft’s selection comes as a bit of a surprise, considering the position he plays.

Craft becomes the first guard to win the award since Purdue’s Chris Kramer in 2010. Usually allocated to a forward or center because of so many ways they affect a game defensively, Craft is without a doubt deserving. He says though that everything he does on the floor is a team effort.

“I am humbled by this award. It is certainly not an individual award. I play my best defense when my teammates are at their best. I know my teammates can rescue me if I get beat. It has been a blessing to achieve this accomplishment and share it with the rest of the guys on our team.”

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Here it is. Stick it on infinite loop and watch it over and over again. You should perhaps shout “Sparty No!” on one of those loops, just for completeness. Michigan State did just lose two straight games that could have won them the B1G Regular season outright, and instead have to share with OSU and Michigan. Ouch.

I couldn’t be more proud of Buford right now. His hard work has finally paid off in a big way.

William Buford had an incredible night, scoring the game winner with one second left on the clock.

Gritty defense, offensive runs, and a desire to win was the name of the game at the Breslin Center, as the team that controlled their own destiny did everything they could to keep their little brother from a share at the conference title.

Thad Matta and his Buckeye Roundballers had something to say about that in the second half.  Down as much as 15, Ohio State had just the spirited effort needed in the second frame needed for a solid tournament run.

It was the often discredited senior William Buford hitting the winning fade from the top of the key with .8 seconds left in the 72-70 victory to end the regular season.

Early, it looked like turnovers, transition basketball and fast break points were going to do the Buckeyes in. Throughout the length of the first half, it was a lack of execution on offense, a breakdown on the wings defensively, and the continued collapsing of the paint defensively  by the Michigan State Spartans that was the difference.

The green and white had 5 points off turnovers, 7 fast break points and a 14-7 lead with just five minutes played in the ballgame. But of course, that wasn’t enough.

After the first media timeout, former Valpo guard Brandon Wood went on a 8-0 run on his own. After a coast-to-coast layup off a steal off a beautiful pass from Draymond Green, Wood dialed up long distance off a Derrick Nix rebound pushed up the flor to freshman Travis Trice who found Wood open at the top of the key. A minute later after a pair of Aaron Craft free throws, Trice would get the basketball in mid air on perfectly timed Derrick Nix block that led to another transition three pointer that made it 19-7.

After the 15-2 run, Michigan state sat comfortable at 22-9.

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BBN Basketball LiveBlog: Michigan State II

Written March 4th, 2012 by Eric

The Buckeyes and Spartans meet up at 4:00 PM EST on CBS today to play for either a share (for the Buckeyes) or an outright claim (for the Spartans) of the Big Ten Regular Season Championship!

While you wait, go checkout our friends in the Buckeye Bloggers Network! the Buckeye Blog, OSU Silver Bullet, Buckeye House Call, Our Honor Defend, and Men of the Scarlet and Gray. Fox Sports Ohio also joins us as usual. The liveblog will kickoff at 3:30 PM EST.

Go Bucks! Let’s win that ol’ conference now!

Buckeye Basketball Breakdown: Northwestern

Written March 2nd, 2012 by Eric

The Buckeyes managed to beat the Cats with a timely shot from Sully in the paint.

After the Northwestern game concluded, there was one inescapable thought in my mind – this was a very good win for us. I saw it echoed among several other sportswriters on twitter, but ultimately saw a lot more negativity from the fans.

Why did we play so poorly against a team as bad as Northwestern?

Well, first off, Northwestern is not a bad team. As I pointed out in my preview of the game, this team often makes visiting opponents look, and play, stupid. It did not come as a surprise to me that they made us fight for every minute of the game clock. That’s what these guys do at home.

Northwestern, as you may have heard at some point, is also in the Big Ten. The Big Ten this year is one of the single toughest conferences out there. It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that we’re going to have a tough time on the road against a conference opponent. To be honest, we’ve been struggling on the road against opponents all season long – there’s no reason Northwestern was going to be any different, even if we did kill them in Columbus. Home court advantage is a significant factor in college basketball, after all.

Given some of the thoughts drifting around Buckeye Nation, here’s a list of some of the big things I took away from the Northwestern win. They’re not all positive, but they all generally show a positive trend in this team.
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Buckeyes Evade Wildcats 75-73 in Evanston

Written February 29th, 2012 by Eric

Craft's offense showed up today to help out against a fiesty Northwestern team.

The Northwestern Wildcats played host this evening for a battle with the Ohio State Buckeyes, and gave the Buckeyes everything they could handle and some. Jared Sullinger put down the last second layup off an excellent Aaron Craft pass to win the game. Sullinger finished the game with another double double with 22 points and 18 rebounds, more in line with what he is capable of doing every night. DeShaun Thomas also secured a double double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Craft scored 14, and Lenzelle Smith put down 12. Drew Crawford of Northwestern led all scorers with 23 points, closely followed by John Shurna’s 22.

Despite discussions about the possibility of starting lineup changes to try to kick-start the Buckeyes better, Ohio State came out with their standard opening five. Matta clearly trusts his guys to get the job done, so we will just have to see if these guys can make the changes necessary to play elite basketball again. While we saw some steps in the right direction tonight, they have yet to demonstrate that they can close out a game – especially after grabbing a big lead.

Surprisingly, the Buckeyes came out strong in this one. Lenzelle Smith started things off on the right foot with a pair of baskets to go along with a trip to the charity stripe. Jared Sullinger also managed an early trip to the line, indicated that the Buckeyes were attacking the basket early. In so doing, they managed to open up a couple of long jumpers for Craft, who drained a three and an 18 footer from the left wing.

Northwestern wasn’t going to take it lying down. The Cats used a nice Drew Crawford dribble drive early to get the Buckeyes focused on defending the lane. Crawford was then able to use the collapsing defense to find open shooters on the outside. The strategy enabled Northwestern to hit three of their first six treys, and kept the game closer than it otherwise would have been with the Buckeyes playing such motivated basketball.
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BBN Basketball LiveBlog: Northwestern Part II

Written February 29th, 2012 by Eric

It’s time to wake up and pay attention. March is just around the corner, and the Buckeyes have two regular season games left. Tonight’s matchup? The Bucks take on the Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston, IL.

While you wait, go checkout our friends in the Buckeye Bloggers Network! the Buckeye Blog, OSU Silver Bullet, Buckeye House Call, Our Honor Defend, and Men of the Scarlet and Gray. Fox Sports Ohio also joins us as usual. The liveblog will kickoff at 8:00 PM EST.

Go Bucks!