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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ohio State Basketball: Are They Tournament Ready?

With two games left in the 2012-2013 regular season, and the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments around the corner, opinions on the Ohio State men's basketball team are as varied as which four schools should get No. 1 seeds to the Big Dance.

Truth of the matter is the Buckeyes have no legitimate scoring threat beyond Deshaun Thomas. That flaw has been painstakingly apparent in each of OSU's five Big Ten losses this season, most notably in blowout defeats on the road to Wisconsin and Illinois. Thomas accounted for approximately 40% of the Buckeyes scoring in both of those losses.

That is not to say Thomas himself doesn't have serious flaws. The junior foward-guard forces way too many shots, and his accuracy from beyond 17 feet needs some work. Not to mention that, defensively, he plays a little too much of the 'ole' (pronounced O-lay) defense.

But I digress. After 28 games, what type of team is Ohio State? Their  head coach, Thad Matta, is routinely criticized, more often than not for his reluctance to make in-game adjustments. Two of their more ballyhooed sophomores, Laquinton Ross and Amir Williams, have not lived up to expectations. And they have let teams such as Purdue and Northwestern hang with them despite having a clear advantage in talent.

Yet, at the end of the day, this team may be poised to make a huge run come NCAA tournament time. For starters, they are in the thick of the Big Ten race despite Thomas being the only scoring threat, in large part due to the suffocating defense that Matta employs. This was never more evident than in the last game at Northwestern, where the Buckeyes won despite shooting a dismal 41.9% from the field. The Buckeyes are led on the defensive end by point guard Aaron Craft, but sophomore guards Sam Thompson and Shannon Scott have also stepped up their games on that end.

So the Buckeyes have flaws, but so does every other team in the nation this year. Which is why the NCAA tournament should be really fun to watch.

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