COLUMBUS, Ohio — The funny thing about rock bottom is that there's no map posted on how to get out of there. Once you're down there, there's no telling on how long it will take to find the exit. Right now, the Buckeyes are in the pitch black, feeling along the walls with their hands looking for a light switch.
First Thoughts From Ohio State's 71-70 Overtime Loss to Penn State
By Tony Gerdeman
The funny thing about light switches is that there needs to be a light bulb with life left in it for them to work. Right now, even if a stray Buckeye hand happened to brush across a light switch, there's no guarantee that any filament would respond to a flick of the finger.
It's hard for me to second guess anything Thad Matta is doing anymore because this team is what it is. Sure, I think playing Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft together isn't working, and yes I think Marc Loving should play more, if for no other reason than you'll need him next year.
But second guessing Matta right now would be like second guessing a college student after they just took an exam for a class they've never enrolled in. The student isn't making mistakes on purpose, he just isn't qualified to be taking the test that he just took.
Right now, the Buckeyes aren't qualified to be competing in the Big Ten, and that's why they haven't been. Ohio State basketball is true reality television right now. There is nothing being hidden. Every flaw is out there for all to see.
Every week this team has a nervous breakdown or two in public, and it's hard to watch. It's like the first time you thought you were ready to step up your level of competition, and upon doing so coming to the frightening realization that you are completely overmatched.
How do you come to terms with something like that when you have only ever experienced success? How do you deal with a lack of confidence when cockiness is all you've ever known? Do you just get defiant and continue doing what you've always done? Is that what the Buckeyes are right now? Defiant?
If nothing changes, then the Buckeyes are simply going through the motions. Sure, the team is working hard to get better, but what are they doing to get different, because the same isn't working.
If the same is no longer good enough, then what's the point of doing it? This team has been the same for three weeks now, and I'm not sure they have a "different". This team is what it is, and the only hope at this point is that next season Thad Matta can find the different that will bring this program back to its expectations.
Quick Thoughts. ... I hope you don't mind that I went straight to "Quick Thoughts". Anything longer than quick and the trauma might induce some type of temporary amnesia. ... The lone net positive of the day was the play of Amadeo Della Valle. Even though he didn't hit a single three-pointer, he was active on offense and aggressive off the dribble. He took some of Shannon Scott's minutes tonight, and he has earned some more time after tonight's game. ... Aaron Craft, Ohio State's senior point guard, played every bit like the freshman he used to be down the stretch in this game. From the turnover in regulation that "wasn't", to the final shot in overtime that never was, it was all inexcusable for somebody of Craft's caliber. The final possession of the game was the most egregious. Craft's internal clock was blinking "12:00 ... 12:00 ... 12:00" on the final possession, and it ended up in him not getting anything near a shot off. He had a chance at a great look, but he needed to pull up and shoot the ball from 30 or 35 feet. He got greedy, and actually took the ball to the defense, eliminating what could have been a clean look for him. ... Speaking of taking the ball too far into the defense, LaQuinton Ross really needs to go back to a 15-foot pull-up jumper rather than continuing into the chest of the defense. I don't understand the thought process of this team, or at least I don't want to. Veteran teams are supposed to be smart, not hapless. ... Don't worry about the NCAA Tournament right now. Just like you shouldn't worry about which pick-up line would work while you're watching the Miss Universe Pageant. Focus on the here and now. But if you're going to ask me about it, I would tell you that the Buckeyes aren't on any bubble. They'll need to win a game or three that they shouldn't in order to get back on the bubble. I see three more wins in the regular season, which would make this team 19-12, which means they would probably need to make it to the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game to get into the Tournament. ... Looking forward to next season, while I think they'll be better because of the talented freshmen coming into the program, I wonder if the influence of this junior class – which will be senior leaders next year – will continue to hold this program back, as they seem to be doing now. It's not fair to put all of the struggles on that class, because everybody on the team is struggling, but that's a lot of iffy production being given significant roles next season. And I wonder how this team will do without a significant improvement at center, which I don't see coming. While the influx of scorers will be most welcome, there will still be an up and down void in the post. How far this team can go next season will likely depend on Amir Williams' development over the next 12 months, which probably doesn't excite you right about now.
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