As the regular season ends in the college basketball world, the Ohio State Buckeyes have seemed to find new life. Coming off of a big win against Michigan State in Columbus and a beat down of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Ohio State seems to have hit their stride at the perfect time.
The Big Ten is flexing its muscles and most teams seem to be getting pretty tired of it. Indiana lost to the same Minnesota team that Ohio State pounded, while Michigan allowed for Penn State to garner it’s first Big Ten win of the season (1-14) on Wednesday night. While it was certainly an embarrassing loss for the Wolverines and not a good loss for the Hoosiers, the results may have been a sign that the effects of the rough and tough Big Ten are starting to show through most of the teams in the conference.
Ohio State, however, seems to be the only team, THUS FAR, that has yet to show signs of major fatigue. The Buckeyes have certainly had terrible outings, but recently have been focused and hustling. Aaron Craft has finally stepped his game up, allowing for the Ohio State offense to run more efficiently. DeShaun Thomas, the Buckeyes’ leading scorer and overall playmaker, might be starting to feel the effects of carrying the team on his back all season. In the last two games, Thomas has shot 10-32 from the field, far below his normal average, and has been cold from beyond the arc. This may have helped the Buckeyes in unforeseen ways.
While Craft has certainly stepped up his game, DeShaun’s lack of production has allowed the Buckeyes to move the basketball more smoothly than we’ve seen this season. It also allows for a better rotation and more minutes for guys like LaQuinton Ross. As Ohio State has shown, when the offense relies only on Thomas, things can get ugly quickly. When DeShaun is carrying the team and he’s off, it’s quite terrible to watch.
Defensively, Ohio State has stepped up their game as well. The Buckeyes have always had a “defense first” philosophy, especially as they are lead by the best on-ball defender in the nation, but their perimeter defense has lacked at certain times. In the last two games, however, the opposing team has been held to under 20% shooting from beyond the arc. In games that Ohio State hasn’t defended well on the perimeter, they’ve allowed teams to shoot 36, 42, 38, and 58 percent from beyond the arc.
It’s incredible how things seem to be falling into the right place at the right time for an Ohio State run in March. IU finally seems vulnerable, Michigan is (hashtag) overrated, and the Buckeyes have finally begun to play seamless basketball. The Buckeyes are tied with Michigan at 10-5 in conference play, and a win against Indiana could help them big time. I know the Buckeyes are coming together, but I still don’t expect a win in Bloomington. If they do hang around and steal a W against IU, however, Ohio State could be headed for a 3 or 4 seed. Another big game comes against the Illini in Columbus. The first matchup between these two teams was a drubbing against the Buckeyes in Champaign. It was the first real cause for alarm for this Ohio State team, an alarm they didn’t answer until after another stomping in Madison, Wisconsin.
The future was certain bleak for a majority of this Buckeye basketball season, but the fog has cleared and there is a definite path for Ohio State to follow. With fatigue setting in for the Big Ten’s best, Ohio State is in a miraculously great position to take the conference, and the country, by storm.