Jared Sullinger is going to get double-teamed just about every single time he touches the ball in the post this season. That’s the way that you have to play him, he’s that good on the block with his back to the basket.
On Saturday, we saw the pitfalls of those double-teams. The biggest Buckeye tried to force his way through the two and three defenders that Michigan State threw at him, and it resulted in a 5-15 shooting performance, 10 turnovers and a hideous, 58-48 loss to the Spartans in Columbus.
Not exactly ideal.
And while it would be easy to pin the blame on Sullinger, the fact of the matter is that he had to force the issue offensively because he had absolutely no support from his teammates. William Buford and Deshaun Thomas, whose roles are to be the guys that take the pressure off of Sullinger, combined to shoot 4-24 from the floor. If Michigan State didn’t face any repercussions from sending triple-teams at Sullinger, why stop doing it?
So would it surprise you that, in Tuesday’s 70-58 win over Minnesota — when Sullinger had 23 points, eight boards and two assists on 6-11 shooting while committing just a single turnover — Buford also had a big game? He hit three jumpers in the first 1:45 of the game and scored Ohio State’s first seven and ten of their first 15 points, and his presence as an offensive threat prevented the Gophers from being able to collapse on Sullinger in the post and forget that the rest of his team existed.
Sullinger is a terrific talent, but he is at his best when he’s surrounded by players that are making shots and spreading the floor. More than any other player in the country, Sullinger forces defense to adjust to him. What made Ohio State so dangerous last season is that they had four three-point snipers surrounding him. Any time an opponent was a step slow on a defensive rotation, they paid for it.
The closest Ohio State gets to that kind of offensive attack this season is when both Buford and Thomas are scoring efficiently.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.
This post will be updated throughout the night.
Butler (KenPom: 41, RPI; 67) at Seton Hall (KenPom: 31, RPI: 37), 6:30 p.m.
LSU (KenPom: 53, RPI: 76) at South Carolina (KenPom: 45, RPI: 28), 7:00 p.m.
Nebraska at Wisconsin (KenPom: 51, RPI: 62), 7:00 p.m.
Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 48, RPI: 30) at George Washington (KenPom: 71, RPI: 34), 7:00 p.m.
Missouri at Vanderbilt (KenPom: 35, RPI: 58), 9:00 p.m.
No. 14 Iowa State at Texas Tech (KenPom: 59, RPI: 51), 9:00 p.m.
Michigan (KenPom: 46, RPI: 56) at Minnesota, 9:00 p.m.
Washington (KenPom: 80, RPI: 57) at Utah (KenPom: 44, RPI: 16), 9:00 p.m.
San Diego State (KenPom: 65, RPI: 47) at Fresno State, 11:00 p.m.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: LSU at South Carolina, 7:00 p.m.
LSU attempts to stay atop the SEC standings when they travel on the road to face South Carolina. The Gamecocks have been very tough at home this season and they’re trying to form a potential four-way tie in the conference standings if they’re able to win this one (and Texas A&M wins tonight). It will be intriguing to see how Ben Simmons fares against South Carolina’s stingy defense.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: Saint Joseph’s at George Washington, 7:00 p.m.
An important game in the Atlantic 10 as Saint Joseph’s heads to the Smith Center to play surging George Washington. The Colonels have won three straight games as they try to stay with VCU and Dayton and make a move to tie the Hawks in the league standings. CBT’s Rob Dauster will be in the building for this one, so make sure to follow him on Twitter for updates.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- No. 21 Baylor will have a tough one in the Big 12 when they go on the road at Kansas State. The Wildcats just knocked off Oklahoma and the Octagon of Doom is a very tough place to play, even if Kansas State is struggling in the standings.
- No. 16 SMU will try to stay in the lead in the American as they host Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane could really use a road win like this for its postseason chances.
- An intriguing Pac-12 contest tips as Washington heads to Utah. The Pac-12 standings are a mess right now, but these two teams still have a chance to make one final move for the regular season title if they start building momentum now.
- In the SEC, Alabama hosts No. 15 Texas A&M, a team that has lost three of its last four games. The Aggies will be favored in this road contest, but this one could be interesting because of Avery Johnson’s unique connection to Texas A&M. Avery Johnson Jr., a transfer guard sitting out this season at Alabama, played for the Aggies last season, so he could have some useful tips for his dad on slowing down Texas A&M’s potent offense.
- No. 20 Providence will be looking for revenge when they head to Milwaukee to face Marquette. The Golden Eagles currently sit eighth in the Big East standings, but they did win on the road by a point over the Friars earlier this season.