Mapping Ohio State’s Path to the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Patrick Engel (@PatrickEngel_) on February 23rd, 2016

After an uninspiring first half of the season, Ohio State has over the last few weeks slowly but surely crept back into the Big Ten race. The Buckeyes are unlikely to contend for the title but they are all alone in fourth place at 10-5. Teams among the top four of power conference standings in late February are usually considered safe bets for the NCAA Tournament, but Thad Matta‘s group is challenging that notion. After a miserable start to the season that included early losses to UT-Arlington and Louisiana Tech, the Buckeyes are now in position to lock up a bid with another good win or two. There’s just one problem, though: Winning another regular season game won’t be easy. Ohio State plays Michigan State twice in its final three games with a home date against Iowa sandwiched in-between.

Marc Loving and Ohio State face an important three-game stretch that will determine their postseason fortune (Barbara J. Perenic/The Columbus Dispatch)

Marc Loving and Ohio State face an important three-game stretch that will determine their postseason fortune (Barbara J. Perenic/The Columbus Dispatch)

Double-figure conference wins is usually enough for an at-large bid from the Big Ten, and every 11-win team in the history of the league has made the field of 68. But as we’ve learned in the era of expanded conferences, not all records are created equal. Eight of Ohio State’s conference wins came against Rutgers, Minnesota, Penn State, Illinois and Northwestern. The other two were notched against Nebraska and fellow bubble team Michigan. Furthermore, Ohio State has just one RPI top 100 win from the non-conference season (Kentucky). This means that the two wins over the Wolverines and Wildcats are the Buckeyes’ lone RPI top 100 wins of the season, and that they have more losses to teams outside the RPI top 100 (three) than wins over teams within it. Losses to Texas-Arlington, Louisiana Tech and Memphis all stink about as much or more as they did at the time. The tally to this point is that 18-10 record and an RPI rating of #75.

One more win pushes Ohio State to the 11-victory mark, but that won’t do much to improve the Buckeyes’ overall resume. Two more wins would result in a 4-8 record against the RPI top 50, but even 12 conference wins combined with an early Big Ten Tournament loss would make for a tense Selection Sunday. Three wins, however unlikely, means that Ohio State can think about seeding options instead of worrying about a bid. Go winless and the Buckeyes would need a deep conference tournament run and some luck around the country among the other bubble teams.

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Big Ten Observations: Ohio State at Northwestern

Posted by Brendan Brody on January 7th, 2016

Ohio State moved to 3-0 in Big Ten play in an ugly win over Northwestern last night. The Wildcats moved to 1-2 in dropping another important home game that could come back to bite them on Selection Sunday. Here are four quick observations from the Buckeyes’ convincing 65-56 win in Evanston.

Kam Williams was the spark Ohio State needed from the bench Wednesday night. (USAT Images)

Kam Williams was the spark Ohio State needed from the bench Wednesday night. (USAT Images)

  • Kam Williams Looms as a Potential Game-Changer: In a game where neither team could make perimeter shots (11-of-43 combined from three-point range), Williams knocked in five buckets from beyond the arc. The sophomore guard was off to a nondescript start to this season (6.3 PPG in 17.2 MPG during non-conference games), but on a team where the next best outside shooter hits only 34 percent from deep, Williams’ development as a scoring option could allow the Buckeyes to make a run at a top four finish.
  • Ohio State’s Defense Keeps Improving: Ohio State is currently ranked 19th in defensive efficiency and much of that success can be attributed to their size — the Buckeyes don’t have anyone smaller than 6’4″ in their starting five. That length allows Thad Matta‘s group to defend at an elite level, and this was on full display last night. The Buckeyes blocked eight shots, holding Northwestern to 0.82 points per possession and 35.7 percent from two-point range. And despite some offensive limitations, Trevor Thompson and Daniel Giddens are becoming defensive menaces.

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Thad Matta Has Tough but Doable Task: Winning with Youth

Posted by Patrick Engel on November 2nd, 2015

Thad Matta’s entire career can be summed up in one word — winner. Think of it this way: The 48-year old has won at least 20 games in each of his 15 seasons as a head coach. He’s missed the NCAA tournament only twice, and he ended up as the NIT champion in one of those two years. In the other year — his first season at Ohio State — he took over a team that finished below .500 in Big Ten play and was ineligible for the 2005 postseason and led it to a 20-12 record that included an upset of top-ranked and then-undefeated Illinois on the regular season’s final weekend. Doubt him if you dare.

Thad Matta is a proven winner, but leading a freshmen and sophomore-laden team through the Big Ten is a tough task. (USA TODAY Sports)

Thad Matta is a proven winner, but leading a freshmen and sophomore-laden team through the Big Ten is a tough task. (USA TODAY Sports)

While Matta has proven his knack for winning year in and year out, he has a big challenge ahead of him this season. He’s got plenty of talent but not much experience on this year’s team. Seven of Ohio State’s scholarship players have never played a minute of college basketball in Columbus; six are freshmen; one is a junior. There are no seniors. Departed players from last year’s Round of 32 squad accounted for 65 percent of the scoring, 87 percent of the assists and 61 percent of the rebounding. The bottom line is that Matta will have to rely on a group of freshmen and sophomores to replace star guard D’Angelo Russell and four seniors.

Russell is the glaring loss. The wunderkind freshman accounted for 26 percent of the team’s scoring, took 26 percent of the shots and logged a usage rate of 30.2 percent, per KenPom. He was the go-to scorer for a team that didn’t have a consistent second scoring option and really hasn’t since the Jared Sullinger/William Buford days. The good news for Ohio State is that beside Russell (and Shannon Scott’s terrific on-ball defense), no one else did anything completely irreplaceable. No other player averaged more than 10.2 points per game and no departing player had a usage rate higher than Scott’s 21 percent, a relatively average rate. Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 04.14.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 14th, 2014

seasonmorning5

  1. California will have to move on in their coaching search after Chris Mack decided to stay at Xavier. Mack, who is 111-57 in five seasons at Xavier including four NCAA Tournament appearances and two Sweet Sixteens, cited a desire to continue to coach the players he has worked with as his reason for staying. Xavier will be without Justin Martin, who averaged 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season, but decided to transfer after his junior year and will be eligible to play immediately because of a graduate student waiver. Former Arizona State assistant and NBA coach Eric Musselman was reported to be next in line, but it appears that he is no longer in the running for the coaching vacancy. It is unclear who the administration is targeting now, but the two names who have been mentioned the most are California associate coach Travis DeCuire (Mike Montgomery’s recommendation) and UC Irvine coach Russell Turner.
  2. It appears that Georgia State is becoming a popular destination for discarded guards from the state of Kentucky. A year after Ryan Harrow left Kentucky to be with his father, who suffered a stroke, former Louisville guard Kevin Ware has decided to also transfer to Georgia State. Ware will also seek a hardship waiver and when combined with his medical redshirt from last season could be eligible to play for two more seasons at Georgia State. When combined with a backcourt that already has Harrow and R.J. Hunter, they should be the dominant team in the Sun Belt once again.
  3. It was an interesting weekend for Iowa State on the transfer front. Abdel Nader, a transfer from Northern Illinois transfer who sat out last season after averaging 13.1 points and 5.6 rebounds at Northern Illinois, was suspended indefinitely after he was arrested for a DUI late on Saturday night. Iowa State got better news on Sunday when Bryce Dejean-Jones announced that he would be transferring to Iowa State. Dejean-Jones, who led UNLV in scoring last season at 13.6 points per game, will be eligible to play immediately because of a graduate student waiver.
  4. Creighton will be taking a step back next year, but the addition of Maurice Watson Jr. could help ease the transition. Watson, a transfer from Boston University after a sophomore season in which he led them in scoring (13.3), assists (7.1), and steals (2.1 per game), will serve as Grant Gibbs’ replacement assuming Gibbs is unable to figure out to work out a couple more years on the Creighton campus (honestly, he is approaching Tommy Boy status at this point). Shockingly, Watson does not appear to have any transfer waiver ready so he will be able to play during the 2015-16 season.
  5. Ohio State picked up a potentially important transfer in Trevor Thompson. Thompson averaged 5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game last season as a freshman, but did show flashes of becoming something more including a 15 point, six rebound performance against Duke. Thompson joins Anthony Lee, a Temple transfer among those joining the Buckeyes next season. According to reports, Thompson will also be seeking a transfer waiver due his father’s medical condition (no idea what that condition is). With his height (6’11”) and potential, he could be a valuable addition to Ohio State.
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ACC M5: 11.19.13 Edition

Posted by Matt Patton on November 19th, 2013

morning5_ACC

  1. Run The Floor: Expect a break from the constant “ACC is the best conference ever” articles we got used to in the preseason. The conference’s performance to date has been less than satisfactory, to say the least, which Michael Rogner makes very obvious with the categories: “Could have been a statement win but wasn’t,” “Losses at home to plucky mid-majors,” “Home losses to teams which were beaten by Coppin State or Winthrop,” and “Losses to teams whose mascot is a yippy dog wearing a sweater.” Bottom line: The best conference on paper is sputtering a bit at the start. Also, Boston College fans should be very wary of the team’s slow start if they have any NCAA Tournament hopes at all.
  2. College Basketball Talk: Everyone get ready for the semi-annual “Roy Williams can’t coach” meme after a lackluster start from the lineup challenged Tar Heels. Now’s the time everyone will take quotes and throw on their imaginary coaching hats where they are sure they could do more than Williams with the current roster. But here’s the thing: North Carolina is playing a lot of people (read: the rotation at center and members of the eligible backcourt not named Marcus Paige) either before they’re ready, or out of position. Rob Dauster makes an important point that Williams is likely focused on getting players acclimated to his system. But another worthwhile point is that this roster is going to struggle without PJ Hairston.
  3. Richmond Times-Dispatch: Trevor Thompson has been a very pleasant surprise this season for Virginia Tech. The team’s relative success has also been a surprise — especially considering the conference’s lackluster start (see above). Thompson has earned a spot in the rotation, though with CJ Barksdale‘s return last night his role probably will be more limited. Regardless, Thompson played well in the second and third games of the season. James Johnson desperately needs depth at the forward position, so Barksdale’s suspension may end up being a positive for the Hokies.
  4. Tomahawk Nation: Ian Miller drew a lot of praise from Leonard Hamilton following Florida State‘s win against Tennessee-Martin. Obviously, the level of competition for Florida State hasn’t been high thus far (though a road win against UCF will likely prove valuable), but right now Miller appears to be getting back to the player many thought he could be until his injury last year. Miller was known as an explosive scorer, but has worked very hard the last two years at getting better on defense. If he can become a good defender, it will help the Seminoles dramatically on the perimeter. The real test will come this Thursday against Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams and their havoc defense look like trouble for turnover-prone Florida State, but Devon Bookert and Miller are much better than they were a year ago. If they can limit turnovers and Ram fast breaks, I like Florida State’s chance at keeping things competitive.
  5. Fox Sports Carolinas: Lauren Brownlow highlighted the best and worst from early ACC play. Surprise finisher on her week’s All-ACC team? Donnavan Kirk. For the record, any Miami player making the list will be somewhat of a surprise this year. Brownlow also highlighted two Maryland players — Shaquille Cleare and Nick Faust — whose struggles have been killing the Terrapins this season. Cleare managed more turnovers than points and assists in the loss to Oregon State, while Faust’s career-long shooting slump has continued into his junior season. Strangely enough, Faust had the reputation of a shooter coming into College Park as a freshman. To be fair, maybe he’s just trying to make up for Pe’Shon Howard‘s transfer.

EXTRA: Yesterday marked Len Bias’ would-be 50th birthday. Here’s a great article on Bias from Mike Wilbon’s archives.

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