Here's What Ails the Buckeyes - Some Big Picture Thoughts
By John Porentas
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Some people just do not know when to keep their mouth shut, and today, some people is me.
I watched the-Ozone forum last night and this morning in the aftermath of OSU's loss in Ann Arbor. I saw a lot of good Buckeye fans who were smarting after the loss and wondering why the Buckeyes went down to defeat. They also had a lot of suggestions on who to blame and how to fix things. The number of whipping boys was impressive. William Buford was popular, as was Thad Matta. Even Aaron Craft took some lashes.
For the life of me, I couldn't bring myself to agree with any of the well-intended and frustrated posters, so I began to think about it and posted my thoughts on the forum today. That was my mistake. Brandon Castel, whose duties now include a big say in what our overall content looks like, asked that I turn the post into a column.
Lazy bastard that I am, I resisted, but BCast (his forum handle) threatened me with the requirement to participate in Water Cooler columns in the future. I am lazy, but I am no dummy. This was already written, and the Water Coolers are work that has to be done in the future, so I gave in and agreed to turn my forum post into a some sort of column.
Here goes, a rare look at my thoughts on what is wrong with the Buckeyes.
It's pretty easy to lose sight of a bigger picture and criticize coaches and players after a loss, but if you think back on what has transpired this season, what ails the Buckeyes is pretty obvious.
It is clear to me that Lenzelle Smith was NOT the choice of the coaching staff for the two guard spot. The coaching staff was hoping to fill that spot with a shooter/outside threat who they thought they had in the person of Jordan Sibert.
When Sibert got minutes last year, I believe the coaching staff thought they were investing in getting him ready for his role as the shooter on the team this year. If you think back to the beginning of the season, Sibert was "the guy" at the two guard position in November and into December, but now has totally disappeared. He simply did not pan out in the role of the "designated dead eye shooter", and that left a hole in the OSU offense.
With Smith now on the floor instead of Sibert the Buckeyes are a much better defending and rebounding team, but offensively there is not enough of an outside shooting threat to draw the defense away from Sullinger and toward the shooters. That means that Matta and company have had to look for an alternative way to open up the the floor.
As many posters on the board rightly pointed, one way to do that is with a penetrating guard who can draw defenders and then dish. Think Mike Conley and Evan Turner. I think Matta and company thought they would have that in Shannon Scott, but like Sibert, he has not lived up to what was expected, at least in that area of his game. There was talk in the preseason of playing Craft and Scott together. Under that scenario, Craft would distribute and Scott would penetrate. Matta tried it maybe once or twice very early in the year, but it quickly disappeared. Now that leaves two gaping holes in the offense, no long range threat and no penetrator, and also impacted a third cog in the big picture plan.
An outside shooter and a penetrator would not only open things up in the middle for Sullinger and Thomas, but also play to Buford's strength as a catch and shoot guy. The Buckeyes have neither of those threats from Craft and Smith at this moment, so you have what you have, including inconsistency from Buford as a catch and shoot scorer.
I see calls for freshman LaQuinton Ross as a solution. I don't know all that much about his game other than he is supposedly a shooter. That addresses one of the two problems, but what seems to be the issue with him is the other end of the floor. I also don't know much about him as a rebounder. What is really the issue though is who would have to come off the floor in order to play him.
I don't think he is a one or two guard, which means to play him you have to bench Buford, Thomas or Sullinger. If you bench Buford, you are trading a spot up shooter who can play a little defense (Buford) for a spot up shooter that is questionable on defense (Ross). If you bench Thomas you are benching a scorer who rebounds for a spot up shooter of unknown rebounding ability, and as stated, the supporting cast just does not lend itself to helping out a spot up shooter. That makes Thomas a bigger asset. As to replacing Sullinger with Ross, I'm pretty sure that notion has most of you holding your sides laughing just as it does me.
Thad is in a tough spot. He's got a couple of young guards that haven't panned out. Players not panning out happens ALL the time in sports. Thad's bad luck is that he got a double-dose this year. I'm absolutely sure he is more frustrated about it than any of us.
One last thing. I saw comments that Thad is not developing players or his freshmen are a disappointment. Hilarious. Remember freshman and sophomore Evan Turner? How about freshman Jon Diebler? On the flip side, freshmen Greg Oden, Mike Conley, and Daequan Cook weren't so bad.
The point is, it's a crap shoot. Some kids produce right away, some kids need time, and some kids never ever get it. It's impossible to know who is who until they are on a COLLEGE level floor in game conditions. Who knows, maybe Sibert, Scott and even Ross will have Turner-like careers, or maybe not. It's what makes actually following a team interesting.
For the record, thanks to all on the forum for the suggestions, but given his track record, I have to believe Matta has a better handle on all of this than any of us including me. Remember Duke and Florida? Same coach. He didn't get dumb in a few weeks.