First Thoughts: Loss at Wisconsin

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Last updated: 02/17/2013 4:58 PM
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Men's Basketball
First Thoughts From OSU's 71-49 Loss at Wisconsin
By Tony Gerdeman

They say before you can start rebuilding yourself, you first have to hit rock bottom. For the Buckeyes, rock bottom appears to have come with a Madison, Wisconsin address.

What we saw on Sunday was an Ohio State team that we have seen hints of all season long. It's no secret that Deshaun Thomas carries this team offensively, but it's also no secret that if he doesn't get help, these Buckeyes aren't going to be enjoying the outcome of any game in which they play.

The only positive that came out of this game was the extended minutes for Trey McDonald and Amadeo Della Valle. Other than that, this game should only be used as an indicator of how bad Ohio State can play when they don't want to.

Going into the game, everybody knew that it wasn't going to be an appealing game to watch. That's just how life against Wisconsin is, but Ohio State's performance was more than just a reaction to Wisconsin, it was also a reaction to their own failings and inadequacies. Some teams just bring out the Buckeyes' faults more than others.

In this game, the Badgers put every last one of them on display.

Spoiled Children. Buckeye fans are angry, they're upset, they're calling for every head that they can find. This is the worst Ohio State team that they can remember (because they refuse to think back to what life used to be like without Thad Matta.)

No, this team isn't "awful", they don't "stink", they aren't "terrible". Those are words fans are throwing around because they're upset that their good Buckeye basketball team isn't a great Buckeye basketball team. Sometimes these things happen.

They're probably going to happen again next year as well. Nobody maintains a top 12 or 16 program without a rough spot here or there, and I use "rough spot" loosely, considering this team will still win between 22 and 26 games. (Unless they simply quit.)

This is still the same team that lost by two at Michigan, by three at Michigan State and by five at Duke. The problem is that Ohio State has very little margin for error, and they had way too many errors against the Badgers.

Spoiled Players. The lack of shooting ability on this team has been an issue all season long, and (along with a few defensive lapses) is generally the reason for each of the Buckeyes' losses. 

You can blame that on the coaches if you want, but I have never seen a coach tell shooters to stop working on shooting. Further, shooting is something that anybody can do at any hour of the day. Jon Diebler and Evan Turner used to do it at three in the morning.

I've said here before that if a player isn't a good shooter, then it's because he hasn't worked at his craft hard enough. I will never not believe that. Anybody can become a good shooter. If they don't, it's not because of the coach, it's because of the player.

The Buckeyes shot 21-56 in this game, and had a ton of good looks. It didn't matter. Even open shots are too much of a challenge, and when the open shots are too hard to make, there's really very little that a coach can do since his job is to make sure that players actually get those open shots.

Spoiled Confidence. After playing perhaps his worst game of the season, recording just nine minutes of play with no points, rebounds, or blocks, I can't imagine Amir Williams has any confidence in his game right now.

He has talked a good game at times, saying that he was going to play harder than he ever has, but the words are as fleeting as the effort. It doesn't even look like he is enjoying himself out there. You can see on his face that his mind is racing a million miles an hour, questioning himself with each step, which then makes his feet almost stationary.

Offensively, he has no confidence. Centers don't need post moves to have confidence, but they can't succeed without one or the other. Williams has neither, and we see the results weekly. I wonder what Alan Major would have been able to do with him.

Speaking of confidence, watching LaQuinton Ross drive to the basket a few times only to come away empty or with turnovers can't be helpful for him at all. People so badly wanted him to get more minutes, and now that he has, the returns are more down than up right now.

Spoiled Coaches. Thad Matta has been the beneficiary of many great players. But nearly as important as having great players is having consistent players. Right now he has exactly one consistent player on his team, and that's just not enough.

Wisconsin has consistent players. They are not loaded with potential, which is why they were not highly-recruited, but they are consistent. They can all hit open jumpers. They all have basketball smarts. They all put out full effort. Basically, their basketball mantra is "Just don't be bad."

Right now, if the Buckeyes could just avoid being bad, they'd be pretty good. But it's an impossible task for a coach to put his players in the best position to win when he doesn't know who his best players are going to be on a day-to-day basis.

This is the team that Matta has recruited, so it's the bed he will have to sleep in, but his players have not made it easy for him. Still, he will once again win 20 games and have his team in the postseason, which isn't yet something that should be ignored by Buckeye fans.

Quick Thoughts. Remember when Ohio State used to play defense? Me too. ... I would be perfectly fine with Trey McDonald getting 25 minutes a night for the rest of the season. Obviously that won't happen, but his four offensive rebounds in this game should lock him into the rotation for the rest of the season regardless. ... Amadeo Della Valle led the Buckeyes with two assists. That is simply unacceptable, especially from a team that plays two points guards as much as the Buckeyes do. However, it's also an indicator of a team that doesn't shoot well, as less potential assists are converted. ... Della Valle also led the Buckeyes with two blocks, which is even more damning. ... It's okay for Ohio State to lose, because that is going to happen, but getting blown out by Wisconsin is disturbing, because it can't happen without the Buckeyes playing a large part in it. In other words, Wisconsin's style doesn't lend itself to blowouts like this. They need help from the opponent. On Sunday, they got more help than they needed. ... I wonder how much the small forward position drives Matta crazy. Both Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross are loaded with potential, but both are more likely to score two points than they are 12 points. Neither can drive the ball consistently without turning it over. They will get better, but that does the team no good this year. ... Lenzelle Smith started the game strong, taking the ball to the basket, but then that was it. He didn't do much else the rest of the game. I mentioned frustration earlier, and I wonder if anybody thins Matta's hair like Smith does. ... By the way, what kind of message was Matta sending to Aaron Craft when he sat him for the final 10 minutes of the game?

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