Defense will be Key for Ohio State this Season

On November 9, 2012 by


(As we get ready for the beginning of the basketball season, special guest Andrew Profio stops by to breakdown one of the major keys to success for this year’s Hoops squad. Defense. Thanks to Andrew, as we look forward to more of his work)

“Offense will always get the glory; it is flashy and excites the crowd.  Defense is the thing that goes unnoticed, but it is what really wins games.  It wins championships.”  My name is Andrew Profio, and that is an original quote from one of my speeches to the basketball teams I coach.  From the time I started in basketball, I have always gravitated towards defense.  It was a great thrill to matchup against someone and deprive him the right to score.  Now as a coach I want my players to play like junkyard dogs on defense.  Swarm the ball.  Defend your paint.  You know the clichés by now.

Defense is going to be the thing that gets the 2012-2013 Buckeyes the success they want to have. I know, I know; Deshaun Thomas is back with all his points, but what other scoring options are there on this team as of today?  Aaron Craft?  Sorry.  Lenzelle Smith?  Maybe.  It is going to be up to the team to play great defense to keep the Scarlet and Grey in games.  It is my opinion they cannot simply outscore teams.  Jon Diebler isn’t coming through those doors anymore.  William Buford and Jared Sullinger are gone; Ohio State returns about 50% of their offense which is a good amount sure.  How much of that though is Thomas?

In the rest of this piece, I am going to cover several key defensive areas that the Buckeyes must improve on if they want to repeat last year’s Final Four run, and possibly get to that National Championship game this year.

It all starts and ends with Amir Williams.  We all know what Aaron Craft can do; he’s the best defender in the country.  Lenzelle Smith is a solid defender as well, giving the Buckeyes a solid defensive backcourt.  The front court is a huge question mark for this squad, and Mr. Williams can go a long way to erase these questions.  He has shown the ability to be a stellar post defender with his size (6’11”, 250 lbs.) and athleticism.  Certainly he is going to be tested when he goes up against the likes of Cody Zeller of Indiana and Adreian Payne of Michigan State.  Deshaun has improved every game with his defensive ability; I’m interested to see if he continues the growth.

The biggest question mark of all lies with the small forward position where, according to Sports Illustrated’s preview issue, LaQuinton Ross is the starter.  The 6’8” sophomore is an unknown commodity at this point.  No one really knows what he brings defensively.  What we do know is that he has long arms and can run for days.  To be a successful defender at this position you must possess great lateral movement, which is the biggest thing to watch from Mr. Ross.  Evan Ravenel appears to be a solid defender within the rotation, Coach Matta feels confident in him to be more than capable to man the paint.
So basically on paper, the Buckeyes should be a more athletic defensive team than a year ago with Sullinger manning the paint.  Here are some statistics that the Buckeyes need to improve upon to have a chance to unseat Indiana as the top team in the Big Ten.
Turnovers per game: NATIONAL RANK: 73rd at 14.6 per game.
Blocks: 177th with 3.2 blocks per game.
Steals: 83rd with 7.2 per game.
Defensive Rebounds: 41st at 23.7 rebounds point game.
Shooting Percentage: 40.8%, good for 41st nationally.

Last year’s national champion, the Kentucky Wildcats were #1 nationally in shooting percentage and blocks.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Here’s some other interesting trivia regarding defensive rankings for some other Ohio teams for you.
Turnovers per game: Ohio U. finished 3rd, while Kent State finished 30th.
Steals per game: Kent State finished 12th.
Blocks per game: Youngstown State finished 15th.

It wasn’t all bad for the Scarlet and Grey last year defensively.  Their opponents managed to score an average of 59.8 points per game which is good to put the Buckeyes at 17th in the nation.  But how do we improve upon these statistics I mentioned above?  I think a lot of it lies with the personnel that will be on the court – with their mentality.  Aaron Craft is an absolute dog when he’s playing on ball defense.  Suffocating defense like this creates turnovers, and hopefully points for the offense.

This is a point I stress to my teams, let the defense create the offense.  If we can block shots, get steals and create turnovers, then that gives us a chance to use our speed to run in transition and score before the defense can set up in the halfcourt.  The Buckeyes possess great speed this year with Sullinger gone, so look for them to utilize an aggressive transition offense more.

So suffocating defense leads to steals which are turnovers, but what about blocks.  How do we create those?  Well its simple.  What made Greg Oden and Dallas Lauderdale so successful at altering shots and sending some back?  They read where the ball handler was going and reacted to his movement.  Both players were great with help defense as well.  For this team I will use this example.  The Buckeyes are in a 2-3 zone, two guards up top and 3 forwards near the baseline.  Craft and Lenzelle are the guards and are up at the top of key, right on the three point line.  LaQuinton and Deshaun are the wing forwards guarding the corners, and poor Amir Williams is stuck in the middle.  If either guard gets taken off the dribble then Amir has to step up in the paint and either take a charge or force a pass.  Say the ball goes into a corner and the wing forwards get beat, then Amir has to slide over and make a defensive play.  That is help defense from the center position; believe me that’s a simple example.  Oden and Lauderdale got a lot of blocks off of help defense, and Amir has the tools to do the same.  Only time will tell if he has the basketball IQ.

Rebounding is the last critical area I want to discuss here in this piece.  Two of the top 5 rebounders are gone from last year’s team, Sullinger and William Buford.  Sully average 9.2 rebounds per game, with Buford pouring in 5.  Good news is that Thomas, Craft, and Smith are all back.  Bad news is that Craft and Smith were two of the top 5 rebounders a year ago.  Players like Ravenel, Ross, Amir, and Sam Thompson must step up.  Here is some math to impress your friends with.  If all played 39 games this year with their rebounding totals from last year, combined they would average 3.17 rebounds per game.  That’s not a stat of a team with championship aspirations.
“Offense will always get the glory; it is flashy and excites the crowd.  Defense is the thing that goes unnoticed, but it is what really wins games.  It wins championships.”

Hopefully after reading this piece you have seen that the Buckeyes will go as far as their defense takes them.  They have the talents to be an elite defense; they just have to possess the mentality.  That junkyard dog mentality; no one is going to score in their side of the court.

Defend their paint……oh you get the idea.