Five Reasons Why Ohio State Should Make the Final Four
By Tony Gerdeman
All it takes to make it to the Final Four is four wins in a row. The Buckeyes have already doubled that with their current streak, so how much harder can the Final Four be?
Okay, pretty darn hard.
However, it's also pretty darn possible. Now don't let the title of this article fool you – I am not saying that the Buckeyes are going to the Final Four, but if they do, it will be because of the reasons listed below.
1. The ability to play any style of basketball. While they have found success playing bruising "Big Ten basketball", the Buckeyes can adapt to most any style of play. They are as adept at Badger basketball as they are with the up tempo stuff. Granted, they haven't gotten to play much up tempo basketball, but with point guards Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott, and Sam Thompson and Deshaun Thomas on the wings, it's obvious that the potential is there. Playing in a tournament, the Buckeyes will find themselves matched up against different types of teams. In fact, they open up against Iona, who is second in the nation in scoring, averaging 80.7 points per game. In the second round, they may face Iowa State, who is averaging 79.6 points per game. But if the seeds hold, the Buckeyes would face New Mexico in the Sweet 16, and they are very reminiscent of a Big Ten team, favoring efficient offense and rugged defense. The Buckeyes will likely be running the gamut of styles, but they are certainly equipped for it.
2. Being in possession of a stifling defense. When Ohio State went into Bloomington and defeated Indiana 67-58, they held the Hoosiers to 22 points below their scoring average. In three games against Michigan State, they held the Spartans to an average of 57 points per game, which was nine below their average. Everybody knows about Aaron Craft's defense, but Shannon Scott can be just as disruptive at times. Lenzelle Smith Junior is another top-notch defender in the backcourt as well, and if the opponent can't get their guards going, it's going to be harder for the rest of the team to pick things up offensively.
3. Aaron Craft. Are you willing to bet against him right now? He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Big Ten Tournament, and he only averaged 12 points per game. He does so many things, that just citing his points is an insult to the rest of his game. It would be like not being impressed by the robot in Rocky IV because all it did was carry around a birthday cake. Do people even understand all of the intricacies that are involved in voice recognition and programming? I bet Aaron Craft does. Craft is currently shooting 56.9% from the field during Ohio State's eight-game winning streak, and of his 28 missed field goal attempts in that span, 10 have been from three-point territory. That means he's shooting 64.7% from two-point range.
4. Deshaun Thomas won't stay cold forever. Deshaun Thomas is currently scoring 19.5 points per game. However, the last time he exceeded that average was February 14th against Northwestern when he scored 22 points, thanks mostly to 10 free throws. Despite consecutive games of 6-19 shooting from the field in his last two outings, the two games prior to that, he did have two consecutive games of shooting over 50% for the first time since December 29th and January 2nd. It's a feat that he has accomplished just three times this season. Along with the simple Law of Averages, further hope for Thomas's shooting grows with the knowledge that he has had a good history in the NCAA Tournament. In helping to carry the Buckeyes to the Final Four last season, Thomas scored 21.8 points per game, and shot 52% from the field during Ohio State's first four tournament games. He will enter Friday's game expecting similar results.
5. Thad Matta. Thad Matta is perhaps the sneaky-best coach in America. When asked to name the top coaches in the sport, would college basketball fans put Matta's name in the top ten? They should. Speaking of top ten, Matta's 20 NCAA Tournament wins is the tenth-most of any coach in the field of 68. He has done a tremendous job this year with a quite-flawed team, and that team is now playing better than they have at any point during the season. Matta has more of his players playing their best ball right now, specifically players like Craft, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross. He has more options at his disposal, but now his players just have to live up to his expectations.
And the one reason why they will not? Their shooting can be as fleeting as a leaf in the wind. Despite all of the qualities listed above, each of them can be negated if nobody can hit a shot.
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