Big Ten Team Previews: Ohio State Buckeyes

Posted by KTrahan on October 30th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Big Ten microsite will be rolling out the featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Where We Left Off: Last season, Ohio State got off to an impressive start, beating No. 8 Florida in the second game of the season and blowing out No. 4 Duke by 22 points in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. However, a Jared Sullinger injury brought the Buckeyes back to earth in Lawrence, Kansas, and they dealt with some periodic inconsistency in the Big Ten. However, OSU still made a run in the NCAA Tournament, knocking off Cincinnati and Syracuse en route to a Final Four loss against that same Kansas team. The Buckeyes lost Sullinger and William Buford, but return a number of returning solid players, putting them in position for yet another deep NCAA Tournament run.

Thad Matta Has Gotten to the Point of Annual Final Four Expectations in Columbus

Positives: The biggest positive on Ohio State is how much talent the Buckeyes return. You know you’re a good team when you can bury top recruits on the bench and still have one of the best teams in the country. Junior forward DeShaun Thomas is a favorite to become this season’s breakout player of the year and OSU also returns top junior point guard and defensive dynamo Aaron Craft. The Buckeyes also have a lot of talent in junior guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr., who was somewhat inconsistent last year, but showed his potential at times. Add in sophomore forward Sam Thompson and sophomore center Amir Williams, and this could still be the most talented lineup in the Big Ten. If OSU can put things together by the end of the season, this will be a very dangerous team in March again.

Negatives: What this Ohio State team has in talent, it lacks in experience. Craft is experienced at his position by now, and while Thomas brings a lot of hype, he wasn’t a superstar last year. Then there are Smith and Thompson, who were at best inconsistent last season, and center Amir Williams, who is also talented but barely played last year. The story is the same on the bench, with players like LaQuinton Ross and Shannon Scott, both highly-touted recruits who have yet to prove themselves on a college floor. This team is full of talent but short on experience, and in college basketball, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

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Big Ten M5: 10.08.12 Edition

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on October 8th, 2012

  1. The countdown to Jabari Parker’s final commitment continues. Parker, who is arguably the best high school recruit for the incoming 2013-14 season, has narrowed his list of schools to the final five and only one Big Ten team will be on his mind over the next month, Michigan State. The other four schools include BYU, Florida, Duke and Stanford. Michigan State’s head coach Tom Izzo is not known for recruiting the typical “one-and-done” player but Parker may be one of the best high school talents known in recent years. The high school senior will schedule on campus visits with each of the five schools and is expected to commit by the end of November. Parker averaged 19.5 PPG, 8.9 RPG and 4.9 APG at Simeon Career Academy of Chicago last season.
  2. Illinois’ athletic director Mike Thomas is under immense pressure this season because he replaced both of the head coaches of the major sports – football and basketball. Even though Illinois football is off to a 2-4 start and has not caught the fans’ attention, he hopes that the basketball coach, John Groce, can turn the attitude around rather quickly. Groce has clearly impressed the Orange Krush with his recruiting abilities by bringing in Kendrick Nunn for next season, but he is preaching toughness for the upcoming year. Groce has been pushing the current guards to be in “attack” mode and has been specifically focused on senior guard Brandon Paul to become more consistent. Paul averaged 14.7 PPG and 4.7 RPG as a junior but he needs to show more consistency if the Illini hope to turn it around after a disappointing season that did not even result in an NIT appearance. Illinois averaged 65.4 possessions per game during the Big Ten and Groce hopes to field a much quicker and faster team which will push the tempo of the game.
  3. President Obama’s love for basketball and his pickup games with various stars of the game has been well publicized over the years, but he is taking his game to the Big Ten country now. The Badger basketball squad spent five minutes with the President last week during his trip to Wisconsin and were promised a pick-up game after the election. Redshirt freshman point guard George Marshall helped organize the meeting by getting some help from his former high school teammates’ father who works with the President. Zach Bohannon, a redshirt junior, started the buzz about the meeting on Twitter. Marshall is one of the new faces that hopes to step into Jordan Taylor’s shoes to take over point guard duties. He averaged 17.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 5.4 APG during his senior season of high school in Chicago. Wisconsin does not have an experienced true point guard on the roster and Marshall ought to fill that role of running an efficient half court offense for Bo Ryan.
  4. Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft of Ohio State have been hyped for the upcoming season and will continue to remain the primary contributors of the Buckeyes throughout the season. But junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. has the opportunity to become a consistent second scoring option in this offense and certainly has the talent to take over games if needed. Smith has been working on his game during the offseason and appears to be very comfortable with his role as he hopes to fill in the void left by Jared Sullinger. Even though Smith averaged only 6.8 PPG and 4.6 RPG last season, he showed flashes of brilliance during certain key contests. Against Indiana, he scored 28 points and went off for 17 against Michigan. He has the shooting range and athleticism to succeed in Thad Matta’s offense as the Buckeyes appear to be one of the contenders to win the Big Ten again.
  5. Penn State’s football team has found its rhythm after an 0-2 start and seems to be one of the contenders to finish strong in a weakened Big Ten. The basketball team also seems to be in high spirits as Pat Chambers continues to mold the program by instilling toughness and more importantly, pushing the team for consistency. Football coach Bill O’ Brien will continue to act as the face of Penn State athletics in the media’s eyes due to the negative publicity of the Penn State football program, but Chambers may be the backbone and strong foundation that the athletic program needs during these times. Senior guard Tim Frazier is a good start as he has the ability to lead his team to a solid Big Ten season. Frazier stuffed the stat sheet last season by averaging 18.8 PPG, 6.2 APG and 4.7 RPG.
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Four Thoughts On Ohio State vs. Syracuse

Posted by Deepak Jayanti on March 26th, 2012

About a year ago, Jared Sullinger shocked the press room by announcing that the would be back for another season despite being projected as a top 10 choice in the NBA Draft. Coming off a brutal loss to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, he seemed very confident about his reasons to return to Columbus, one of them being unfinished business because he wanted to lead Ohio State back to the Final Four. Several comparisons have been made between the recruiting class with Greg Oden to the one with Jared Sullinger. Both classes were highly touted and Oden along with Mike Conley led the Buckeyes to the National Championship game where they lost to Florida. Last year’s recruiting class — Sullinger, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas — has lived up to the hype as they led Ohio State back to the Final Four Saturday by beating Syracuse 77-70. Let’s examine four key factors that led to the victory over the weekend.

Aaron Craft and The Buckeyes executed an excellent game plan to beat 'Cuse. (

  1. The Buckeyes did not settle for three-point shots. Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone forces the opposing teams to settle for long-range shots during the game. Syracuse frustrates opponents to an extent where they believe that the only way to break it is to chuck up 25-footers. Three-point shooting is one key to break the zone but only with quality looks and when the looks are not there, teams need to attack the paint to force the zone to fall apart. On Thursday night, Wisconsin shot 14-27 against ‘Cuse but they forgot about other ways to score, one of them being to attack the basket. Ohio State’s wings did an excellent job of cutting their way into the paint against the Orange, resulting in 42 free throw attempts. William Buford and Deshaun Thomas could have settled for flat-footed threes but rather they stayed active and remained close to the hoop with their shot selection. Both of them combined for 1-7 from the long-range but 8-10 from the charity line. Overall, the Buckeyes shot only 4-13 (30.8%) from deep but their limited three-point attempts allowed them to exploit the zone via the post, not from 25 feet away from the hoop. Read the rest of this entry »
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ATB: Fantastic Final Four – Buckeyes Squash the Orange, Carolina Misses Marshall, and an All-Kentucky Dream Game

Posted by EJacoby on March 26th, 2012

This Weekend’s Lede. The Final Four is set and ready for action with some of the biggest storylines in years. There were no Cinderella stories on this second weekend, as the Elite Eight was comprised of all powerhouse teams that have been the class of college basketball all season. This week will feature numerous awesome back-stories and matchups to look forward to in New Orleans, but first we’ll break down exactly what happened over the weekend that’s led us to the remaining four teams in the Big Dance. Without further ado, here’s how it went…

Your Watercooler Moment. Russ Smith Runs Wild For #4 Louisville as Unlikely Hero

Russ Smith Sparked Louisville to a Comeback and a Final Four Berth (C. Hanewickel, US Presswire)

The top players in the NCAA Tournament proved their worth over the weekend for their heavyweight teams, but the one team that lacks that superstar performer made for the best story of the weekend. Louisville was a slight underdog against #7-seed Florida in the West Regional Final and the Cardinals trailed by eight points at halftime by surrendering far too many open threes to the Gators. But Rick Pitino’s team stayed within striking distance throughout the second half before perhaps the most enigmatic, up-and-down performer in college hoops picked the perfect time to have his best game. Russ Smith, Louisville’s super-sub that provides instant energy, came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Smith often leaves coaches and fans scratching their heads with his decision-making, but his no-fear mentality was the difference in this game. Making aggressive moves to the basket and taking big shots late, Smith came up huge for his team in its biggest spot of the season. He finished with 19 points, five rebounds, two assists (and four turnovers), and hit two consecutive shots with his team down by six points to cut the Florida lead to one. From there, Louisville closed out the game and sent the Big East Tournament champions to the Final Four.

Also Worth Chatting About. Late-Game Defense Allows #2 Kansas To Defeat #1 UNC

The Jayhawks defeated #1 North Carolina in the Midwest Regional Final by 13 points, but this was one of the most entertaining and close games of the entire NCAA Tournament. The teams were deadlocked 47-47 at halftime in a high-scoring affair, but the defense took over in this game’s second half. Kansas allowed 63.6% shooting in the first half but it was a completely different story after that. The Jayhawks gave up just 22.6% to UNC in the second frame and did not let the Tar Heels score again after a Harrison Barnes free throw cut a Kansas lead to 68-67 with 3:58 to play. Bill Self implemented a surprising ‘triangle and two’ defense that completely threw off UNC offensively, especially limiting what the Heels could do in the paint. Jeff Withey was unable to repeat his 10-block performance from the Sweet Sixteen, but he and Thomas Robinson got the best of Tyler Zeller and John Henson in scoring and rebounding inside. Combine that with the fact that Tyshawn Taylor had an incredible game going up against Stilman White, and Kansas was too tough for a Kendall Marshall-less Carolina team to overcome. There was not enough offense from UNC when it needed it, but Kansas’ terrific defensive effort was a big reason for that.

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Rushed Reaction: #2 Ohio State 77, #1 Syracuse 70

Posted by nvr1983 on March 24th, 2012

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Officiating was the story. We have tried for most of this NCAA Tournament to avoid criticizing the officials because it is a very difficult job and we cannot imagine what our jobs would be like if we had 10 million people overseeing us with the aid of HD cameras and replay, but the officials in the first half were atrocious. Early in the game, we assumed that the awful second foul that was called on Jared Sullinger with 13:42 left in the first half would change the tenor of the game and it did for a brief period, but then the officials really took over. By the end of the half, Syracuse had 12 fouls while Ohio State only had six. We would sympathize with Orange fans more, but the loss of Sullinger against the zone was huge as the second half demonstrated. Unfortunately, the questionable officiating carried over to the second half. It is unfortunate that a game with so much potential was marred by the officiating, but Syracuse was plagued with foul trouble for much of the second half. In the end it was too much for the Orange to overcome although the Buckeyes deserve credit.
  2. Syracuse was destroyed on the board. It has been a topic all year, but tonight the Orange were outrebounded by 13. While Sullinger had 7 rebounds, the Buckeyes were led by Deshaun Thomas and William Buford with 9 rebounds each. Baye Keita had 10 rebounds, but the rest of the Orange could only gather 16 rebounds combined. It is difficult to say that rebound did the Orange in with the officiating, but it certainly played a major role in their eventual demise.
  3. Sullinger is headed to the Final Four. Limited to just six minutes in the first half, Sullinger played the entire second half and came up huge. Coming into the game we figured that the Orange would not have an answer for him and although foul trouble in the first half prevented him from putting up a huge line he managed to finish with 19 points and 7 rebounds. For all the talk about Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson it has been easy to forget about the Buckeye star, but he will be heard from in New Orleans. Whether or not the other two will join him is yet to be determined.

Star of the Game. Lenzelle Smith Jr., Ohio State. The forgotten sophomore (Sullinger, Thomas, and Aaron Craft) take all the headlines) came up huge today. He had 18 points including making 7-9 from the free throw line. The free throws at the end were particularly big when the Orange cut into the lead and Aaron Craft was on the bench leaving the Buckeyes vulnerable. Smith, a 59% free throw shooter on the year, made them when they counted and now Ohio State is headed to New Orleans.

Quotable. “No comment” – Jim Boeheim after the game and John Adams at halftime when asked about the officiating

Sights & Sounds. As you can imagine the crowd was all over the officials for the entire game. Surprisingly the language was kept PG. Maybe we are just used to big city crowds (or ones with a lot of college students), but the area we were sitting in (across from the Ohio State bench) heard very few expletives.

What’s Next? The Buckeyes march on to New Orleans where they will face either North Carolina or Kansas. In either case they will face a formidable front line, but if they draw the Tar Heels the point guard matchup, which will like be sans Marshall, will be very interesting with an untested point guard trying to bring the ball up against Aaron Craft.

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Four Thoughts on Ohio State Vs. Wisconsin

Posted by jnowak on February 4th, 2012

The Ohio State – Wisconsin game Saturday afternoon certainly was as good as advertised and, whether you’re a fan of either school or just good Big Ten basketball, it was a treat to watch. Here are a few things to take away from a contest that had major implications on the conference standings:

Jared Sullinger Dominated the Post in Madison Today ( Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE)

  1. The effect on the standings — With the victory, the Buckeyes are now in the conference driver’s seat. As of the end of this game, Ohio State held a one-game lead in the standings over Michigan, with Michigan State and Wisconsin trailing the Wolverines by half a game. Michigan heads to Michigan State on Sunday and a Wolverines loss would drop them further back, giving Ohio State even more cushion. The Buckeyes still have to host Wisconsin, play Michigan State twice, and go to Ann Arbor, but a win in one of the toughest environments in the Big Ten against the conference’s hottest team secures Ohio State as the top dog in the conference right now. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the Big Ten Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 17th, 2012

Bill Hupp is the RTC correspondent for the Big Ten Conference. Follow him on Twitter @Bill_Hupp for his thoughts on hoops, food, Russian nesting dolls and life.

Reader’s Take 


The Week That Was:

  • Gophers Golden Again: Not only did Minnesota win its first two conference games of the season this week, it’s the first time since 2009 that the Golden Gophers have won back-to-back conference road games.  UM was led by freshman and Minneapolis native Joe Coleman, whom Tubby Smith inserted into the starting lineup three games ago.  This week, Coleman hit four free throws in the final minute to help Minnesota hang on for a 77-74 upset at No. 7 Indiana, then exploded for a career-high 23 points in a win over Penn State. Nobody thought the Gophers were as bad as their original 0-4 Big Ten mark indicated, but learning how to win close games can build a young team’s confidence quickly.
  • Brandon Paul Pops Off in Champaign: Illinois junior guard Brandon Paul came into the Ohio State game averaging 12.1 points per game, but he earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors after he dropped a career-high 43 points out of nowhere on the Buckeyes. Paul’s 28 points in the second half included some very tough, contested shots near the end of a close game (full video highlights below). His 43 points were the third-most in a game in school history and the most since Andy Kaufmann went for 46 against Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1990.

Brandon Paul's Game To Remember Against Ohio State Stole The Headlines From The Big Ten Race (Heather Coit/AP)

  • Back in Black: Wearing black jerseys at home in a must-win game against No. 7 Michigan State, the Wildcats got an inspired effort from backup center Davide Curletti, who made his first start of the season and finished with season-high 17 points and six rebounds. He gave great energy for Bill Carmody while starting in place of the ineffective Luka Mirkovic. Teams had been averaging just 59.6 points against the Spartans through the first 17 games, but MSU allowed Northwestern to shoot 54 percent in the second half to pull away for an 81-74 win.  We’ve said before that the Wildcats would pull off an upset or two in conference play if they shot the ball well, and that’s exactly what happened in Evanston.

Power Rankings

  1. Ohio State (16-3, 4-2) – It’s doesn’t seem fair for opposing teams when Lenzelle Smith Jr., a.k.a. “Ohio State’s forgotten starter” can hit 10-of-12 from the field, score 28 points and grab seven rebounds on a whim.  It’s really a “pick your poison” scenario when you are playing a team with so many potential offensive threats.
  2. Michigan State (15-3, 4-1) – Draymond Green may be a bruising power forward at 6’7’’ and 230 pounds, but he has shown a nice touch from the outside this season.  Besides being a force down low, Green leads the Spartans with 24 triples on the season. It’s an offensive skill that has “Day-Day” (as Tom Izzo calls him) a virtual lock for first-team All-Big Ten honors.
  3. Indiana (15-3, 3-3) – Some uncharacteristically poor three-point shooting this week spelled doom for the Hoosiers, who dropped games to Minnesota and Ohio State. A team that averages nearly 50% from beyond the arc was a combined 11 for 39 (28%). They feel behind early in both games and couldn’t shoot their way back into either contest.  One positive this week was that Cody Zeller averaged 19.5 points in the losses.
  4. Illinois (14-3, 4-1) – With his imposing size and impressive array of skills, the Illini should have the premier go-to scorer in the conference in center Meyers Leonard. Yet too often, it seems like he is catching the ball facing the basket, instead of posting up on the block where he could turn and score over his left shoulder or kick it out to three-pointer shooters like Brandon Paul or D.J. Richardson. Leonard needs to park himself down low where he can maximize his offensive efficiency.
  5. Michigan (14-4, 4-2) – Michigan barely survived Northwestern at home in OT, then got blasted by 16 at Iowa. In both games, it seemed like the Wolverines stopped attacking the basket and were content to settle for threes, jacking up 30 against NU and 31 against Iowa. Their motion offense, cutting and dribble penetration gets them easy buckets at the rim, so they struggle to score when they get too willing to fire from long range.
  6. Wisconsin (14-5, 3-3) – It wasn’t especially pretty against Purdue or Nebraska, but the Badgers earned a pair of hard-fought five-point wins to even their conference mark at 3-3.  Needing a win to snap a three-game losing streak, Wisconsin blitzed Purdue early hitting five of their first six threes to build a 22-4 lead. They came back to earth after that, however, shooting 2 of 18 from distance against the Cornhuskers.
  7. Purdue (13-5, 3-2) – Purdue faced a desperate Wisconsin team and dug themselves a 22-4 first half hole at Mackey Arena a before battling back and eventually falling. It’s not a good sign for the Boilers when Lewis Jackson finishes with two points and the team only hits 33% of their three-point field goal attempts.
  8. Minnesota (14-5, 2-4) – With star Trevor Mbawke sidelined, the Gophers needed other players to step up and help Rodney Williams shoulder the scoring load. Well, it looks like Joe Coleman, Austin Hollins and Julian Welch are starting to come of age. You knew Tubby Smith had plenty of athleticism and talent at The Barn, it was just a matter of fitting the right pieces together. Now he has five starters who are averaging between 8.3 and 12.5 points per game in conference play.
  9. Northwestern (12-5, 2-3) – Teams often struggle once conference play begins because their young point guard takes a few steps back. Not Northwestern, where starting guard Dave Sobolewski leads the Big Ten and is near the top of the nationally with a 4. 2 assist-to-turnover ratio, and really excels at backdoor feeds.
  10. Iowa (11-8, 3-3) – Talk about an enigma of a team. After getting destroyed by an average of 32.5 points in road losses to Ohio St. and Michigan St., the Hawks turned around and cruised past Michigan, 75-59 at home on Saturday. Iowa can light up the scoreboard when its shots are falling, which is why they’ve scored 75 points or more in nine of their 11 wins this season.
  11. Nebraska (9-8, 1-5) – Where were you when Nebraska won their first Big Ten game in school history? Since getting pasted by Ohio State, the Cornhuskers sandwiched their lone conference triumph over Penn State between narrow five-point road losses at Illinois and Wisconsin, holding all three opponents under 60 points. They don’t score much, but NU seems to be a natural fit for the conference in terms of their grinding, methodical style of play.
  12. Penn State  (9-10, 1-5) – One of the most difficult, but important things to teach a young team is how to defend on a nightly basis. The Nittany Lions have dropped three straight, and in each loss, allowed their opponent to shoot over 50%. That’s not going to cut it in any conference, let alone the deepest and toughest in the country.

Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Showed The Nation That The Buckeyes Go Beyond Sullinger, Craft And Buford (Getty)

Looking Ahead

  • Tuesday, 1/17: No. 9 Michigan State @ No. 19 Michigan – One of the most underrated rivalries in college hoops has added significance this season with each team being in the hunt for a Big Ten title.  State is looking to rebound after having their 15-game winning streak snapped at Northwestern, while the Wolverines are trying to remain unbeaten at home (11-0).  Look for whoever wins the intriguing PG battle between emerging Spartans sophomore Keith Appling and Michigan’s stud freshman Trey Burke to win the game.
  • Wednesday, 1/18: Northwestern @ Wisconsin– An important game between two teams with similar styles each desperate to continue the momentum built this past weekend. Both are pretty reliant on the three-point shot (NU first, Wisconsin fourth in three-pointers per game), so whoever has the hotter hand should emerge victorious.
  • Saturday, 1/21: Purdue @ No. 9 Michigan State – The Boilers could use a signature win (Butler and Illinois don’t count) to impress the Selection Committee.  As always, Ryne Smith and co. will have to knock down treys, but that’s a tall order against MSU, which is stingy on the perimeter (second in conference allowing 30.2% from three).

Caught on Film

It’s amazing how a player’s success on offensive end can carry over to his defensive performance. Brandon Paul poured in 43 points, the highest single-game point total in the Big Ten in 20 years.  But he also made his presence felt defensively, grabbing a couple steals and swatting four emphatic shots. As you can see from the below video, he was on fire from distance and a monster on the defensive end.

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