Poll Results: Jared Sullinger, the Forgotten Man?
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In life, it is easy to take somebody for granted who is always present and productive, and in basketball it's easy to do that with a team's best player.
When Michael Jordan was in his heyday, his coaches and the opposing coaches automatically chalked him up for 30 points before the game even started. That was a huge burden to expect on a nightly basis, but it never stopped them from expecting it.
Now imagine the disaster that would come from Jordan falling 15-20 points under what was expected of him. It would be up to somebody else to pick up his slack, whether they wanted to or not.
Sometimes it worked (see: Bobby Hansen in the 1992 NBA Finals), but generally when Jordan had a bad night, the Bulls had a bad night. As his team's best player, their success ebbed and flowed with him. When he was on, they were on. It was that simple.
But is it more important for a team's best player to play at his best, or is it more important for others around him to do so? After all, ideally, it is already known what your best player is going to give you, so is the best bet to hope for better than average performances from others?
With these questions in mind, last week we conducted a poll asking "Which player is the key to Ohio State's chances at the NCAA championship run in 2012?", and the results were pretty definitive.
The choices were Jared Sullinger, William Buford, Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, or "Other".
The overwhelming winner of the poll was Buford, who received 36% of the votes. Next came Craft with 28%, then Thomas with 19%. Sullinger, the lone All-American on the team, brought up the rear with just 14% of the vote.
The vote for Buford is a clear indicator that fans still don't think the Buckeyes can win it all without a stellar performance from him. That may ultimately be true if they end up facing Kentucky, but it has been pretty clear to this point that Buford's importance has been diminished as he has stayed mired in his slump.
With Craft receiving the second-most number of votes at 28%, it is likely that his importance is seen on both offense and defense. Not only is his own performance important, but how he defends the opposing point guard will also go a long way in determining the Buckeyes' success.
Thomas was third in the polling, receiving 19% of the vote. Thomas' mismatch potential, as well as his current hot streak, would seem to be the driving force behind those who voted for him. I wonder if his numbers would have been higher had he not been such a consistent player of late.
Sullinger receiving just 14% of the vote tells me that some people have forgotten just how important he is to the Ohio State cause. They are already chalking up his performances without taking into account how truly valuable they are.
Of note was the fact that Lenzelle Smith Jr. only received one vote via the "Other" category. He received the same number of votes as Mark Titus, Amir Williams and "Bagman with the $$$$".
Obviously, we don't have voting restrictions, which is why a lonely Michigan fan took part. The margin of error on these polls from now on should be equal to the number of Wolverine fans voting.
For me, the most interesting part of these results is that of the four players listed in the poll, the two lowest vote-getters also happened to be the two most productive Buckeyes on the roster.Remember, just because you take them for granted doesn't mean they lack in importance.
After all, where would the Buckeyes be right now without stellar performances from Thomas or Sullinger?
They wouldn't still be playing, that's for sure.
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