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Friday, January 14, 2011

College Basketball: Is Duke really better than Ohio State?

They began play in 2010-2011 as the preseason's no. 1 and no. 2. The general consensus is that these two teams are on a collision course Houston in April. Each team boasts its own superstar, the one being a fourth year senior, while the other is true freshman.  They have started out the season blazing hot,  a combined 32-1.  So the question then becomes, who is the better team?  Head to head, does the defending champion Duke Blue Devils own the advantage over the Ohio State Buckeyes?

Taking a look at each team's respective schedules, one would probably conclude that Duke has the advantage. Duke has defeated two nonconference opponents ranked in the top 25 whereas only one team that Ohio State has defeated was ranked in the top 25.  In addition, Duke has beaten schools such as Butler, Oregon,  and Marquette.  What is interesting though, is that it appears Duke has done most of its damage at home, Ohio State has been equally impressive on the road.  Ohio State owns road wins against Iowa Michigan, Florida, and a Florida State team that handed the Blued Devils its first loss of the season.  So, maybe the schedule isn't the best way to determine which team is better.

Taking a look at each teams respective rosters,  it appears that the Blue Devils are a bit deeper than Ohio State, going probably eight or nine guys to Ohio State's six or seven.  What is worse for Ohio State, however, in terms of depth, is that Dallas Lauderdale, one of its starters, doesn't appear to contribute much more than a body at times.  The Buckeyes are at a slight disadvantage to the Blue Devils when it comes to height, and, despite the fact that freshman sensation Jared Sullinger plays bigger than his 6-9 frame suggests, he can't do it alone.  And while the backcourt tandem of Diebler, Buford, and Craft could probably hold their own to Kyle Irving and company, guarding the Plumlee brothers could get troublesome for the Buckeyes.

If , however, there is one x factor for these two teams, it  would probably be free throw shooting. Coach Mike Krzyzewski's team are typically good at the charity stripe, and this year's team, at 74.7%, is no exception.  On the other hand, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta cannot be pleased with his team's 68% clip, and has to be thanking his lucky stars his guys were able to drain them when it mattered most last Wednesday against Michigan.

So, when it comes down to it, who exactly is the better team?  Right now I'd have to say Duke, even though I'd love to see OSU beat them.  The teams matchup fairly well, but Duke's size, depth, and ability to make their free throws give them the slight edge.  Although you never know in college basketball, which is why tourney time is appropriately deemed 'March Madness.'

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