Around the-Ozone Water Cooler—Which Player on Thad Matta's Bench Would You Like to See Get More Minutes and Why?
By the-Ozone Staff
It has been one of the old standby complaints during the Thad Matta years when things aren't going well—'Matta refuses to use his bench, and it's hurting the team.'
While that's obviously not literally true, because he does use his bench a little, it is an easy dagger to sink when the six or seven players that he has relied upon down the stretch don't "get the job done".
Clearly, the thought is that the more players that see the court, the better chance you have of finding somebody who won't shoot 2-14 once or twice per week. Or, if you can imagine such a thing, even having a reserve who actually improves the team's stock while he is in the game.
So with that in mind, we turn once again to the trusty Water Cooler, where we sip room-temperature water and wonder who should be playing more than they are right now.
And with five participants this week, it's actually pretty crowded around here.
Tony Gerdeman — The first player that I think of when this question is asked is freshman point guard Shannon Scott. And given the way he and Aaron Craft played together against Illinois Tuesday night, I feel even better about my answer.
Wanting to see more of Scott is based on several aspects of the freshman's game. The first is that he loves to push the ball, and in the Big Ten this is a lost art. When games are as close as they are down the stretch, any advantage that you can gain needs to be explored.
Granted, there are no advantages to be gained by Scott's shooting at this point, but his shot will come. Much of the rest of his offensive game is already here, however. He can break down defenders and is always looking to pass.
The good thing about getting Scott more minutes is that he can come in for any of Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith or even William Buford. Although—and say what you want about Buford—you can't take him off the court too much because he's the only legitimate shooter in the backcourt.
Defensively, he can be stellar as well—as we've seen all season long. But what we saw against Illinois with Craft and Scott together is that Aaron Craft became a more aggressive offensive player with Scott in the game. It was not unlike Jamar Butler moving from point guard to shooting guard for Michael Conley five years ago.
We're not talking about anything as drastic as that, but it was good to see that Craft could score when he wanted to. Perhaps with more minutes for Shannon Scott, Craft will become an even better offensive player. Playing them together also gets Scott more comfortable when it's just him and Craft is on the bench.
Plus, if you don't play Shannon Scott more minutes, I can't see him staying at Ohio State for three more years.
Scott Dame — My choice is Amir Williams.
Williams, listed at 6-foot-11 and 220 pounds, is a true freshman from Detroit Country Day High School. He earned McDonald’s All-America honors in his senior year as he led his team to the Michigan state title game.
Despite his obvious size and talent, Williams has shown some weaknesses in his overall strength and in closing out if he’s forced to guard an accomplished outside shooter.
But I believe Williams’ value as a shot-blocker would outweigh any weaknesses and inexperience. Williams ranks second on the team in blocked shots with 19. Jared Sullinger has 21 blocks despite accumulating four-times more playing time.
Williams compares favorably to forward Evan Ravenel in rebounding, collecting 56 rebounds while playing only 7.3 minutes per game. Ravenel has 63 boards (and only seven blocks) while averaging 11.0 minutes per game. These statistical advantages easily outweigh Ravenel’s slight advantage in scoring; Ravenel averages 4.0 points per game, Williams 2.0.
In my opinion, it is critical for Williams to get more minutes at the end of the season and in the Big Ten Tournament. If they have a prominent shot-blocker, the Buckeyes are much more likely to advance beyond the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
Brandon Castel — This is a tough one, because for all the clamoring there has been for Thad Matta to play more of his bench this season, I’m not sure there is anyone who really fits what they need. The Buckeyes have a lot of athleticism sitting over there next to Matta and his staff, but what they really need is a clutch shooter who can come off the bench and knock down a pair of threes in the second half of a big game.
That guy was supposed to be Jordan Sibert, and it worked perfectly in the Big Ten opener against Northwestern back in December. Sibert came off the bench and splashed four threes against the Wildcats in 20 minutes as Ohio State cruised to an 87-54 win. Since then, Sibert has seen his minutes evaporate in favor of super-athlete Sam Thompson.
Sibert has made only one of his 13 shots from long range since that explosion against Northwestern, which is why many have turned their attention to LaQuinton Ross, the talented young freshman out of Mississippi. Ross came to OSU with plenty of fanfare as a scorer. I spoke to one person close to the team who said there is “no question” Ross has the talent to play in the NBA. That alone causes intrigue, then he gets out there and scores five points in five minutes the way he did against Illinois.
Now I’m really interested to see what Ross could do with 10-15 minutes a night off the bench, but it seems unlikely to think Matta is suddenly going to think Ross is ready to contribute for this team. He missed a lot of practice in the early season, and even Tuesday Matta mentioned that “this is all still new” to him. That’s why I’m going to stick with Sibert as my guy to get more minutes off the bench.
I realize that he has not done the one thing they really needed him to do, hit shots, this season, but it seems a little extreme to assume he is no longer capable. One thing I know about Sibert is that he has a good looking shot, much better than guys like Craft, Thompson or Shannon Scott, who have also struggled with the jumper this year.
Sibert is also an athletic guy who can play some defense and handle the ball. He is not as good of an on-ball defender as a guy like Smith, based on what I’ve seen, but he is a good team defender with the ability to get into passing lanes (think Big Ten Tournament vs. Michigan last year).
I’m not suggesting Sibert is the answer to Ohio State’s problems, or that he is better than Ross, but he is more experienced and at this point, I have more reason to believe that Matta might actually consider giving him another shot. I certainly think he should.
John Porentas — I got a directive from the real powers that be at the-Ozone that I should participate in this Water Cooler article. I have no idea why since it seems that nobody who works here now is interested in my opinion on anything anymore. That is in fact totally understandable since I am now old and out of touch. I can only assume they want me to write this so it can become a source of ridicule, but on the off-chance (and very slim off-chance at that) that they really want to know what I'm thinking, here it is.
In thinking about the candidates of whom I would like to see more of in Thad's rotation, I eliminated Sam Thompson and Evan Ravenel since they are getting regular playing time. After the Illinois game, I also eliminated Shannon Scott since it appears he is now in Matta's plans.
That left Jordan Sibert, LaQuinton Ross, Alex Rogers, J.D. Weatherspoon, Amir Williams and Trey McDonald.
The Buckeyes don't seem to need any help on defense, so I eliminated Williams whose current skill set seems to be most developed at the defensive end of the floor. I also eliminated McDonald since playing him would put either Deshaun Thomas or Jared Sullinger on the bench, and that doesn't look like a good idea, so McDonald is out.
I don't know a thing about Rogers, so that leaves either Sibert or Ross.
At the moment, I'd go with Jordan Sibert. Ross is certainly skilled as a scorer. I was very impressed with the ability he showed in that area in his appearance against Illinois, but the weakness in his game in my opinion is his current inability to display those skills within the team concept. There is also his defense, but in my opinion, for the Buckeyes to be successful they have to get back to ball movement that will allow all the scorers on the floor to have a chance to display their skills, and I just didn't see that in Ross's game yet. I think that will come, but it isn't there yet. The Buckeyes also need to get back to transition basketball, and I don't see where Ross will help them in that area either.
Sibert on the other hand seems to get it as far as the team concept and how he fits into it. His reputation coming in was that of a shooter/scorer, and while he has yet to prove that at the college level, that is exactly what the Buckeyes need, and I'd like to see him get another chance to prove he can be just that. You can argue that Ross has the same rep, but I think that it is more likely that Sibert could get that done while remaining within the team concept, so he is my choice. I also think he is less of a defensive liability and more likely to help get the transition game going again.
Having said all that, had Scott not gotten minutes vs. Illinois, he would have been my choice for the very reasons that we saw against the Illini. Scott can facilitate Craft as scorer as well as all the rest of the Buckeyes on the court. Maybe most importantly he can help get the OSU transition game back to where it was and where I think Thad wants it to be. I don't think that Sibert or Ross has as much ability and potential in that area, so Scott can be vital. Some of OSU's offensive woes can be cured instantly if they can add four or five easy fast break baskets a game, and I think Scott can be a guy who can help them get that done. Finally, Scott did score in high school. There is still the possibility that he will regain his confidence in his shot. If so, he could be a great addition to the rotation.
Ben Axelrod — To me there’s a very obvious answer to this question, and while it’s certainly not a sexy pick like giving more minutes to LaQuinton Ross or Amir Williams, it is my opinion that Thad Matta should consider inserting Jordan Sibert back into his rotation.
With the Buckeyes being so young and at times offensively challenged, it’s tough to imagine a scenario where Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas, and Aaron Craft don’t each play close to 40 minutes a night through postseason. With three spots in the line-up already vouched for, that leaves OSU’s two swingmen positions open for the remainder of the Buckeyes’ playing time. Currently, those spaces have been filled by a combination of William Buford, Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Sam Thompson, and Shannon Scott. Each of those four players brings something unique to the OSU line-up, but none of them have proven capable of making outside shots on a consistent basis this season- something which the Buckeyes need more than anything right now.
Which brings us to Sibert. Like those playing in front of him, he also hasn’t been an overwhelming threat from outside the 3-point arc, but if you had to rank him in that group, he’d fall closer to Buford (capable, but not consistent) than he would Smith, Thompson, and Scott (okay to leave wide-open, unless you’re Indiana.)
After Smith beat out Sibert in a preseason battle for a starting line-up spot, Sibert began the season as the Buckeyes’ sixth man, but fell out of the rotation by the middle of Big Ten play. Despite having played in just 22 of OSU’s 28 games, Sibert is still fifth on the team in 3-pointers made with 13 and has made three or more 3-point shots on two separate occasions.
Now I’m not saying that Sibert should start alongside Buford or even replace Thompson or Scott in the rotation, but on the Buckeyes’ off-shooting nights—such as the ones they had in losses to Michigan and Michigan State this season—why not give Sibert some run? Aren’t your chances of making a shot better with an extra shooter on the floor, even if it’s an inconsistent one?