Ohio State

Buckeyes

Season Record18-8

Player to WatchJustin Ahrens

Key PlayersCJ Walker, Duane Washington Jr., Justice Sueing, Kyle Young, EJ Liddell, Seth Towns, Justin Ahrens

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Intro

Ohio State was having a fabulous, but somewhat surprising, season up until about a week left in the season. Despite some very obvious flaws, the Buckeyes started out 18-4 and were right in the thick of the Big Ten title race. I’m not sure if the Michigan loss broke them, or if the underlying flaws we saw all season are just becoming more salient, but the dam has broken and the Buckeyes finished the season sliding, as they lost three straight games to Michigan, MSU, and Iowa.

Player to Watch

Ohio State is 10-1 when Justin Ahrens makes at least 3 shots, as opposed to 8-6 when he knocks down less than 3. Ahrens is a unique player because he almost exclusively shoots 3-pointers, with 109 of his 113 shots coming from beyond the arc. He’s a 45.9% shooter from downtown this season, which is third-best in the conference behind Iowa’s CJ Fredrick and Joe Wieskamp (minimum 50 attempts). While he’s only Ohio State’s sixth-leading scorer, a productive Ahrens completely changes the Buckeyes’ offense. Because he is such a threat, he demands the full attention of a defender at all times, and they cannot give him any space. This pulls one defender out to the perimeter, which opens up space for the likes of E.J. Liddell, Kyle Young, and Duane Washington to drive to the basket. Not surprisingly, Ohio State’s three-game losing streak happened at the same time Ahrens all but disappeared. as all three faceguarded Ohio State’s southpaw sniper, literally stopping him from taking any shots. OSU needs to work harder to get him open, but Ahrens also needs to hunt his own shot more.

Case for Team

The Buckeyes are a rare case where they actually go 11-deep in most games, with eight players averaging 10+ minutes per game. Seth Towns, the former Ivy League Player of the Year, plays just under that at 9.6 minutes per game, but he is continuing to round into form following multiple knee surgeries last year. He, too, has had some huge minutes for Ohio State this season. The NCAA Tournament doesn’t provide teams with much time to prepare for their next opponent, as the first and second rounds space games out by roughly 48 hours. Ohio State’s depth could give them an advantage in the tournament, because they realistically have 7-8 guys who can give teams serious problems offensively.

Case Against Team

The Buckeyes’ defense is awful, and their offense is trending in the wrong direction at the absolute worst time. They’re undersized down low, so teams love to pound the ball down there, drawing a double or triple-team most times. This will in turn open up the perimeter, so it becomes open season from 3-point land. On top of the size disadvantage, the Buckeyes are just a fundamentally poor defensive team. They don’t get back on defense quickly enough and allow too many transition buckets. They foul shooters on an absurdly high amount of made baskets, setting up tons of and-one opportunities for their opponents. They give up far too many offensive rebounds, which you simply cannot do if you’re already the smaller team. It isn’t just one area: Ohio State is just an all-around bad defensive team.