First Thoughts after Eliminating Michigan

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Last updated: 03/10/2012 9:01 PM
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Men's Basketball
First Thoughts From a 77-55 Win Over Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament
By Tony Gerdeman

For the second time in as many nights in the Big Ten Tournament, the Buckeyes played well enough that they never faced a single deficit.

To say that the Buckeyes dominated this game from start to finish would ignore the fact that they likely also dominated the pre and postgame festivities.

There was probably nothing that Ohio State didn't dominate on this day. But then, that's life when a team gets to play Michigan so often.

The Buckeyes won by 22 points and ended up missing more shots than they made. In other words, they dominated on the defensive end of the court and Michigan had no answers.

The Wolverines shot 17-55 (30.9%) from the field and just 4-25 (16%) from behind the three-point line. It was the absolute worst-case scenario for a team that relies on its outside game.

The Ohio State offense, meanwhile, was a bit of a different story. Deshaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger clicked like there was nobody even trying to defend them. They combined for 46 points in 59 minutes, and no matter what Michigan tried against them, it ended up failing.

First Thought

Aaron Craft came into this game with a focused purpose of containing Trey Burke, and the results were spectacular.

After scoring 17 points on Craft in a win over the Buckeyes the last time they met, Burke was held so far in check in this game that he may as well have been stuffed in the back of a closet and forgotten for the rest of the year.

Burke shot just 1-11 (9%) from the field, including 0-7 from three-point range, and turned the ball over an incredible eight times. Aaron Craft wasn't just in his face, he was also in his head.

At times it was like watching a senior dominate a freshman, but I had to keep reminding myself that Craft is only a year more seasoned than Burke.

I love Burke as a player, but Craft won this fight by knockout.

Some Michigan fans will chalk it up to Burke playing 45 minutes the night before, but Craft clocked 38 minutes just 17 hours earlier, so if we want to talk about fatigue, we can, but it won't count for much, and Burke still won't come out of it looking very good.

Similar Thought

Aaron Craft wasn't the only Ohio State guard locking down Wolverines like poachers in this game, because Lenzelle Smith was doing it as well.

Smith was very instrumental in Tim Hardaway Jr.'s 3-10 performance from the field, and kept him from really making any noise of note the entire day.

Though, to be fair to Hardaway, it wasn't all on Ohio State. After all, defending Hardaway can be a bit like a cornerback who baits a quarterback to throw to his side by laying off. I'm convinced there are times when opponents entice Hardaway to shoot, knowing that he's much more likely to miss a shot than make it.

Fun Thought

It can't be an enjoyable experience trying to defend Jared Sullinger when he is having fun.

There was a basket he scored on Jordan Morgan and the entire way back down to the other end of the court Sullinger was shaking his head in the "ain't nobody can guard me" kind of way. Morgan, meanwhile, had to run downcourt behind Sullinger, being reminded the entire time of what he already knew—that he was in serious trouble in this game.

Sullinger's offensive game in this one was the proverbial "quick, but not in a hurry". It wasn't rushed, it was simply expedited, and Michigan had no answer for it.

His confidence filled the arena like water in a vessel—reaching to every open space, occupying it completely and suffocating its opponents, and his game did the same. It didn't matter if he was on the blocks or the wings, the results were going to be good.

Clearly, a happy Sullinger is bad news for opponents, and great news for the Buckeyes.

Curious Thought

I understand it likely has something to do with getting the right people on the right side of the floor and spacing shooters, but why does Sam Thompson command more of the ball than William Buford when he is in the game? Especially since he is only looking to give the ball back as soon as he gets it.

Is it just a matter of him being allowed to get the ball, where as a guy like Buford would be more strenuously defended? Is it simply a desire to keep Buford on the opposite side of the court for ball reversal purposes?

Right now, Thompson's entire role on offense is to give Aaron Craft a three-second break in dribbling in the half-court offense. Don't get me wrong, he's okay at it, but clearly his skills will have to expand before his role does.

Abbreviated Thought

I'm going to keep this short so as not to get creepy, but how much of a man crush on Deshaun Thomas do you think would be too much?

I don't believe in tattoos, but would a tee shirt with a "1" and "Thomas" written on it be considered too much? I wouldn't wear it everywhere, just most everywhere.

I just love the way his offensive game has continued to evolve and mature. There is nowhere on the court right now where he doesn't have an advantage over his defender.

He still hasn't shown a great ability to drive, but currently that's not his game. Besides, he doesn't even need to drive. One dribble and a pull up works just fine for him.

He's getting the ball in the post a bit more now and he can turn right or left and score equally well from either side. He has no tendency because he's comfortable with everything. He is quite simply a true scorer. Scoring is scoring, and he doesn't discriminate.

Oh, and then he also happens to be the best offensive rebounder I've ever seen at Ohio State. Granted, my rankings only go back to the mid-80s, but his ability and timing are remarkably unique.

Combine his anticipation with quick jumping, flawless hands and an oxygen-like need to score, and you have yourself a perfect offensive rebounding weapon.

Final Thought

Fastbreaks shouldn't be feast or famine, but it sure feels like that's what they are for the Buckeyes. It's almost like watching a quarterback throwing deep—you gear up for something huge, all the while knowing that the likelihood of completing the pass is pretty low.

Ohio State scored six fastbreak points in this game, and I'd say four of those were of the "Denard Robinson jumpball to Junior Hemingway" variety.

It's strange to think that William Buford or Lenzelle Smith should just hold up and wait for everybody else to get down court before moving past the three-point line.

Maybe Thad Matta needs to create an offsides rule for the Buckeyes. My suggestion:  nobody is allowed to break the three-point line on a fastbreak unless Aaron Craft or Shannon Scott is the first or second player in.

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