Five for Friday: Buckeyes I'd Want Taking The Final Shot in March
By Tony Gerdeman
Every team needs that one guy who they go to when they need a basket most. Ohio State has had quite a few in its time, and chances are that they'll need another one before the NCAA Tournament is over.
Do you realize that the last time the Buckeyes didn't lose by a single basket in the NCAA Tournament was the year they lost in the Finals to Florida?
There was the two-point double-overtime loss to Siena in 2009, the three-point loss to Tennessee in 2010, the two-point loss to Kentucky in 2011, and the two-point loss to Kansas in the Final Four last year.
That troubling number got me thinking about who I'd want taking the final shot if I was the head coach. In lieu of going with my first instinct, which is me as "Player-Coach", here are the five (plus) guys who I'd want with the ball with the game on the line in March.
Please note that I only go back to the mid-to-late 1980s, so there is no Jerry Lucas or Gary Bradds or Louis Hegelheimer (he was the team captain in 1905).
1. Scoonie Penn
Few players provided such a calm with the basketball in their hands as Scoonie Penn did. During the Buckeyes' Final Four run in 1999, #4-seed Ohio State had to go through #1-seed Auburn and #3-seed St. John's, and Penn was critical and calm through all of it. At least until his jersey was stolen.
2. Jared Sullinger
It feels strange putting a player on here who lost twice in the NCAA Tournament by two points. Still, I've never seen anybody as determined as Sullinger when it came to getting a singular basket. The added benefit of having Sullinger take the last shot? There's also a pretty good chance that he would get fouled.
3. Evan Turner
Evan Turner could get into the lane whenever he wanted, and had grown deadly with the mid-range jumper. If I'm down by two points, I'm perfectly comfortable letting Turner take the ball at the top of the key and spin around one defender before pulling up from 16 feet. I'm also comfortable with him taking a 35-footer against Michigan.
4. Jay Burson
Ed Horton stole a Jay Burson March from us in 1989, so he's on this list simply because he's got plenty of pent-up clutch shots left in him in my hypothetical world. Plus, he can get his shot off from just about anywhere, and he was quick enough to get wherever he wanted to in order to get that final shot.
5. Brent Darby
I think if there was one single shot that I would choose over any other in this scenario, it would be Brent Darby at the top of the key with a crossover dribble leading to a three-pointer. (In my hypothetical world, you better believe that Brent Darby is still going to be around.)
Bonus: Jon Diebler
If you're going to draw up a shot for any one player in Buckeye history, the all-time leading three-point shooter in Big Ten history is probably going to be mentioned.
Bonus: Jim Jackson
While "JJ" was a clutch player during the regular season, I recall him struggling throughout his career during the Tournament. As a sophomore, the Buckeyes had a #1 seed and lost to #4 St. John's in the Sweet 16. The next season, the #1 seed Buckeyes lost to #6 seed Michigan in the regional finals. I need a more consistent shooter than what he typically was in March. This is completely unfair to Jackson, but it's my lasting postseason memory of him.
Bonus: Alex Davis
Alex Davis is on this list for his game against Providence in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. He hit a three at the buzzer to send the game to overtime, and led the Buckeyes with 24 points in the eventual win. Jim Jackson had six points in overtime, but only 15 for the game.
Bonus: Michael Redd
Michael Redd wasn't the three-point shooter he became in the NBA, but he was still pretty good. Plus, he had a crossover that couldn't be matched. He could get a shot off whenever he wanted.
Bonus: Dennis Hopson
The all-time leading scorer in Ohio State basketball history should be on here somewhere, right?
Bonus: Brian Brown
Even as a freshman in 1999, he hit some big shots in the Tournament. He only got better from there. One of the more underrated Buckeyes of the last 20 years.
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