Ohio State v Duke

Ohio State’s lack of balance will be its downfall

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I don’t care what happens in November, it’s impossible to write any team off in the first month of the season.

To an extent; we all know that DePaul isn’t winning the Big East and that Savannah State isn’t making the Final Four.

But at this stage in the season, saying that — oh, I don’t know — Ohio State cannot win the Big 10 this year is a stretch. Even with how good Indiana is and how good Michigan has looked, flat out stating that a team with two all-americans on the roster cannot win their conference is premature, especially when that team went into Cameron and beat up on Duke for 30 minutes.

What we can say, however, is that Ohio State is going to be in trouble on the nights that they can’t find a secondary scoring option.

No one is going to stop Deshaun Thomas. The all-american was defended beautifully by Ryan Kelly and company on Wednesday night, but he still managed to finish with 16 points on 6-14 shooting despite getting into some foul trouble in Duke’s 73-68 win over Ohio State.

The rest of Ohio State’s scoring threats?

Aaron Craft was 3-15 from the floor and had just a single assist. Lenzelle Smith was 4-12 from the field. LaQuinton Ross had nine points and three boards in the first half as Ohio State built their lead, but was a non-factor in the second stanza.

The Buckeyes simply rely too much on Thomas on the offensive end. They don’t have the firepower to truly be considered elite right now. That can change, especially if Ross or Smith start to play more consistently. And Craft isn’t always going to play this poorly. In fact, one of the biggest reasons Duke was able to make their run down the stretch is that whoever was guarding Thomas simply never left him in pick-and-roll situations, daring Craft to shoot. Craft’s strengths may be defense and leadership, not scoring, but he’s certainly not normally a liability offensively, which he was on Wednesday.

The elite teams can combat a star having an off-night. Seth Curry struggled on Wednesday, and Rasheen Sulaimon blew up for 17 second half points. Christian Watford struggled on Tuesday against North Carolina, and Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey both finished with 19 points. Trey Burke didn’t score in the first half against NC State, but he finished with nine assists and no turnovers in the first 20 minutes because he had enough talent around him to simply be a distributor.

Ohio State doesn’t have that luxury.

And that is what will be their downfall.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.